When did Naked go out of Style?

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A few months ago as I scrolled through my Facebook feed, I noticed an article on the role of sexual power and male/female demographics.  Since Tim and I write on this stuff, I clicked.

Two seconds later I realized I had been redirected to the Playboy website.  With cheeks flaming red, I furtively glanced around, hoping no one at Starbucks noticed where I had landed and then inhaled the info at high-speed so I could exit the site incognito.  In truth, the article was a well-written piece but Playboy is not my usual stomping ground.

A few days later, my husband mentions to me that he accidentally clicked on a link off Facebook and it went to Playboy.  He fessed up early because he knows I get an e-mail once a week with his browsing history.

How awesome is my husband?

So why do I get this  e-mail, you ask? Am I one of those freaky paranoid wives hiding in the corners and spying on her man?

Uh…no.  Although that would make for a good story.

Tim asked me to be his online accountability partner a while back and I am notified once a week if there is any questionable activity.  My husband initiated this self-audit–not moi.  Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) I never have anything to razz him about.

So when he mentions Playboy, I know I can mess with a little.

Husband: “Oh, uh, yeah…so there was this really cool article on Facebook and I clicked and I didn’t know it was on Playboy and…”

Me: “Yeah right, you just clicked on Playboy for the articles?”

Husband: “Yes, I mean, I know it sounds bad, but it was so innocent and I totally freaked out immediately.”

Me: Now dying laughing at his awkward attempts to explain this.  I poke a bit more and then fess up.

Me: “Hey babe, I read the same article.  I know you are telling the truth.”

And he breathes a big sigh of relief and then comes over to tickle me for busting his chops.

………..

When I saw the breaking news on Tuesday that Playboy will no longer post nude pictures it got my attention.  I guess it’s okay to read Playboy at work now.  Men for the first time ever CAN  truthfully claim they read it for the articles.

Playboy explained the drastic move away from their lusty roots citing that nudity is now “passe.” They will instead focus on writing and increasing their readership based on different parameters.  Because of the internet and easy access to porn, the “felt need” for nudity or what some would call “soft porn” has disappeared.  Apparently, twelve-year-old boys could care less about sneaking dad’s mag now since their iPhone is easier to take into the bathroom.

Wow.  It’s hard to believe nudity is so overdone now that iconic brands birthed on a provocative paradigm have transitioned to a less is more slant.  When Abercrombie and Playboy drop the sexy, it’s clear the titillation of a naked body is that of a bygone age.

Call me old school, but I want naked to mean something.

I want to get hot and bothered by my naked man.  (Just to be clear, I’m talking about my husband here folks)  I don’t want to live in the land of rampant sexual inundation where naked is the new norm.  Have we become “so numbed out by porn” that Playboy isn’t sexy anymore?

Am I the only one who wants to struggle a little bit at the mall as I walk by Abercrombie when the half-naked ripped young man  is at the front door.  I want to have the freedom to choose to avoid the men’s underwear aisle because I find toned abs attractive and every package sports a six pack.

I’m the girl who didn’t see Magic Mike, not because I’m not tempted, but because I choose to honor my husband.  But darn it I want the freedom to choose right from wrong.  I don’t want to just assume our culture is perverse and stop caring.

I want NAKED to mean something.

It allows me to FEEL something called temptation. It means I get to choose to stay or walk away from enticement.

I’m bummed that sex on Tinder is given out so freely that it’s lost its sacredness.

Way too many young people are now so jaded that sex is like flossing. “It’s just sex”, they say.

But it’s not just sex and it’s not just naked.

Naked is beautiful and sex is a gift.  Our good God created them.  They are not passe.

This may sound bizarre, because I’m not supporting naked men’s mags, but I grieve the fact that we are so far gone on porn that a gorgeous naked centerfold doesn’t cause teenage boys to go bat-poop crazy anymore.

I heard a Playboy rep say, “The twelve-year-old me is sad at this move.”

Well buddy, the 43-year-old me is sad too, because in our overly saturated sex culture, naked isn’t very naked anymore.

–Samantha

 

 

Love is Not a Feeling

Here is our first of four video blogs about dating now viewing on Christian Mingle…

(The first one was rejected by the editors because yours truly used a slang word for oral sex.)

I know, I know…Sam we can’t take you anywhere!

After some magical editing, I am now fit to be shown in middle America.

Let me know what you think.

Blessings,

Samantha

 

Pretty Ugly-Why Dating the Hot Girl Sucks

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A friend called the other day as I wolfed down a salad with my hubby at a nearby restaurant. In between bites, I listened to his sorry tale of a date gone AWKWARD.

And as Tim and I laughed with (and at) our friend’s awful tale, I remembered how hard it is to date and how Really hard it is to find good prospects.

As my friend described his date, I heard him say over and over, “but she’s so pretty,” as if it were an excuse for her rotten behavior.

I heard the longing in his heart for a real relationship but I couldn’t overlook the tacky elephant in the room despite how totally gorgeous the elephant was.

So here is how it went down: Our buddy invites a “hot” woman to coffee. At some point on the way to the first meet-up, the woman texts him and switches the location to a fine dining establishment. She then proceeds to order filet mignon, a huge beer which she guzzles down, burps and then hands him the bill.

In my book, that type of behavior is just plain old rude.

But in my friend’s mind he excused her bad behavior because of her beauty.

Why?

Because her beauty fed his need for validation as a man.

(And maybe it also gives him good material for his schtick)

So where do we look to for our self-worth?

Is it outside of us (the world) or inside?

And when is enough ever enough?

Now my friend is a very smart and ridiculously talented guy. He works in the entertainment industry but lives within a modest income so he can give back to the community. He is secretly one of the more philanthropic people I know and spends hours upon hours every week helping the poor and needy. His heart is pure gold—and despite his penchant for pretty women who treat him badly, he is a real catch.

But his fatal flaw is a broken picker based on a broken self-worth.

He picks beautiful mean women.

And he knows better.  But he justifies.

Because in his eyes pretty covers a multitude of sins.

Let me state the obvious–beauty is only skin deep but ugly goes down deep to the bone.

Big boobs have no connection to a big heart.  Just saying.

This chick was bone ugly—let’s call her BUGLY. And BUGLY exploits her beauty to use men.

BUGLY is not what a good man needs. He might think he wants it—like junk food, or a 12 pack or a binge on porn…but in the end it leaves a huge gaping void.

We feel depleted, missing something…sad. What should have made us feel good made us feel worse the day after.

When she doesn’t text you back.  When she only calls because she’s hungry or has nothing better to do.

Anytime we look to outward things—materialism, image, power—to find our identity, we miss out on the intangible things our hearts truly crave—love and relationship.

God alone determines our self-worth. We are image bearers of the King, fully loved, and fully accepted despite our brokenness. We don’t need to prove anything to anyone.

Let others play this stupid game. No one ever wins. All the toys and egos go back in the box when the game is over.

No hot chick, hook-up, affair, rich man, big house, power job or perfect children will satisfy this void in our heart.

We can look our entire lives for the elusive something to fill the gaping hole in our heart s—a hole that God designed specifically to draw us close to him.

In the absence of relationship we turn to things to fill the gap.

But things only leave us wanting more and more.

I reckon someday my friend will get fed up of dating b-yatches and cry uncle to Jesus.

He’ll say, “God you take the wheel and bring me your woman.”

And then he will sit down with an attractive woman who doesn’t meet the world’s standards of beauty but has a light all her own. She will order a cup of coffee and that’s it. Period.

And she will dazzle him with her character and humor, integrity and kindness.

And suddenly he will find out what real beauty is—God working through ordinary relationship making the simple moments of life extraordinary.

*I know there are conventionally beautiful and “hot” women out there that are amazing AND kind.  I am blessed to know plenty of them!  I’m merely addressing the mean girls who use their super-powers to dupe men.

 

Why it’s Time to take off the Beer Goggles

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On the outside looking in, my life is Insta/FB worthy.  I’ve got three great kids who are healthy and functional, a job I love, a new dog, and a husband/bestie who is a pastor.

There are 59 kids in our neck of the woods of Ladera Ranch.  A rope swing dangles on a tree in our yard. It’s picturesque and our Christmas card’s don’t suck—thanks to the golden locks of my little lamb, my gorgeous son and cat-eyed girl.

It sure sounds pretty, right?

But this is so far from the WHOLE story.

If you only see my life from this angle it’s like you’re wearing beer goggles. 

The details are foggy.

But in the morning, when the makeup rubs off and the bathroom smells like puke, the rest of the picture comes in crystal clear.

Our family is pretty ordinary, slightly neurotic and occasionally downright crazy.  I think it’s awesome but it’s a far cry from perfect.

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Sometimes I like to pretend I’m not divorced—a shuushed word in the ministry realm.  I also wouldn’t mind forgetting past depravities and burying some of those wretched decisions of my youth in the sand (Can I just say I am so freaking grateful I didn’t grow up in the social media era!)   

I am highly sensitive and I FEEL stuff intensely.  It’s probably why I write.  I create drama in my mind.

I also dated REALLY badly as a Christian. 

Yep, I’m the one the Good Christian Girls pointed their fingers at.

Whisper, whisper, whisper, “Sam wore a bikini to the singles retreat.”

It’s true.  

I didn’t know the Christian rules or I ignored them occasionally when I felt they were dumb.

I did missionary dating—that’s where you to try and convert a hot, rich guy who’s not a believer into one and then you lie to yourself and pretend you have something in common.

I did gold digger dating.  No comments necessary.

I did “try really hard at purity” dating. 

I made so MANY mistakes during my time as a single Christian woman.

Much of what I talk and write based off of me blowing it, turning to God in desperation, and finally surrendering my dating life to him.

And when I finally stopped to listen, there was a repeated theme that God kept bringing me back to.

My identity was broken.

And this gaping wound was causing tremendous pain, ruining my dating life and destroying any chance of meeting the man God had for me.

So what was my big sin that kept me from God’s best? 

Not seeing myself through God’s eyes.

Beer Goggles vs. God Lenses (Note* Beer is a metaphor.  I don’t drink beer although I do like a good Cabernet on occasion)

I incorrectly labeled myself and others because my lenses were distorted.

I pigeonholed people.  I pigeonholed myself.

We think we are so politically correct.  WE would never label anyone,

And yet…I see it all the time in dating.

I believe it’s one of biggest obstacles we face as singles.

We write people off all the time by their outside appearance, job or demeanor.

The problem: a label is a description applied from the outside, rather than something intrinsic to the labeled thing. 

Labeling discounts character, spirituality, intelligence, humor and heart.

I was so guilty of this not only outward in my judgment of men but also towards myself.

So where does this start?  As kids we get labeled by our well meaning parents, coaches and friends.  A child incorporates the label into their identity and then feels the thing they were told they are.

The Results?

  • They stop taking risks
  • Forget what God created them to be
  •  They believe the lies someone else fed them.

What were my LABELS?

$$, achievement, image was MOST IMPORTANT 

And although I knew God’s truth, I still operated (or defaulted) to broken thinking and a false identity based on a worldly view during times of stress.

Gal 1:10 says, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

I had an approval problem and a label problem.

And because I believed lies about my own identity and self worth, I then judged others through a faulty lens. 

 I labeled myself and I labeled others.

If you do not know who you are, you will struggle your whole life to know what is right and what you should do. If you know who you are in Christ, you will know what to do.

So God, in his infinite mercy challenged my thinking.

I dated out of brokenness but expected health.

I was the girl who kept saying, “There’s just aren’t any good ones out there who are spiritually mature and have good character.”

What I really meant was there are NO wealthy hot guys who love Jesus like I do.

Then came the enlightenment moment! 

I was at dinner with guy I met online.  He was a wealthy business guy.  And we had nothing in common.

The Epiphany—I was looking to replace one bad relationship with another.

I hid in the bathroom called friend –“call me and pretend it’s an emergency.” 

She said, “Why? Is he awful?”

I said, “No he’s just awfully familiar.”

I cried uncle. 

I surrendered… 

I stopped dating.  I needed to heal the broken parts.

John Townsend and Henri Cloud say this, “Those who blame external circumstances for their situation do not find what they want.  Those who work on themselves, take responsibility for dealing with their circumstances, and then take action, have success.

Proverbs 4:23 puts it this way:

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

Our external life comes out of our internal life.  Therefore my ability to judge character would only be as good as my beliefs about myself.

I needed to learn, who I was in Christ. 

I needed to dig deep into the lies I believed about myself to uncover my true identity.

God was saying to me, “What do you believe about me?

Do you believe I love you?”

I honestly began to search my heart, study His Word, I concluded He did love me—but conditionally.

Which was why I kept taking over in the dating area because I didn’t trust he had my back. 

I also needed to unpack the lies and personal labels I’d been stamping myself with and rip them off.

  • I needed to know that my desire to be with a spiritually mature man was good.
  • That my heart for God was not shameful or less than, but good and worth fighting for.
  • That I was more than the way I looked and that I had value and worth to add to a relationship.

I had to stop comparing myself to others and look to God for my self-worth. 

We must take off our horizontal glasses and put on our vertical shades.  Look up not out.

Here is what God showed me during my dating fast:

Recognize Your Value—

There is difference between having an inflated ego and simply understanding your significance based on your God-given gifts and value to Him.

God knew what He was doing when He created you. He gave you everything you need to do everything He wants you to do.

Stop focusing on all that you cannot do.

Take an inventory of your gifts. Embrace these and maximize them!

Stop Harmful Thought Patterns—consider some of the thought patterns and other factors that are leading you to believe lies about your worth.

“Jesus came to announce to us that an identity based on success, popularity, and power is a false identity—an illusion! Loudly and clearly He says, ‘You are not what the world makes you; but you are children of God.’”—Henri Nouwen

Begin New Thought Patterns—each negative thought can be countered with God’s idea of your value.

Scripture tells us to take every thought captive (2 Cor. 10:5). Counter every negative thought with the truth that God reveals about you in His Word.

Rom 12:2 says:

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Be Patient—healing does not happen overnight.

It will require replacing bad thought patterns with good ones. It will take daily dedication and conscious effort to stop believing the labels and lies and embrace your identity in Christ.

Read God’s Word—study what the Bible says about your worth to God. Explore what He says about His love for you and His purpose for your life.

We must replace the lies with truth…

God, our Creator, sees us has having great worth because He created us in His image.

◦He created us a little lower than the angels (Heb. 2:7).

◦We are crowned with glory and honor (Heb. 2:7).

◦We are fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139:14).

◦We are valuable enough to be purchased with the blood of His Son (1 Peter 1:18-20).

The more you reaffirm who you are in Christ, the more your behavior will begin to reflect your true identity.”—Neil Anderson

Story of Bookstore:

First met Tim.  Thought he was cute and smart but I didn’t like the pastor idea. 

Let me run this by you.  I wanted a man who was spiritually mature but I told myself a pastor was not an option.

Here are the lies I believed:

Pastors are poor therefore I would have to work and couldn’t be a stay at home mom.  Pastors live in a fishbowl and everybody watches you. Pastors are boring.  My parents and affluent friends will not approve

Lie #1: God won’t provide

Lie #2 Good moms stay at home

Lie#3 I am not worthy of spiritual leadership

Lie#4 Man’s approval is more important than God’s best

So my friend sees Tim sitting with me at lunch at the café and she does everything she can to interfere because she wants me to marry a rich guy and be like her.

So, she corners in the bookstore at Mariners and makes me Pinky swear, “I will never marry a pastor.”

And then apparently God laughed. 

On our first date, which took a while because I first said yes to going out with him, then changed my mind (because I had this nagging feeling this was a God thing)

Then called him back a few months later and said let’s do this.

Balboa Island –Dazzle me

But I had to wrestle with God some more before I agreed to be his girlfriend.

And part of that was because I was still holding on to labeling others.

Because what do we do?

  1. We judge ourselves wrong
  2. We judge others through distorted lens

So Tim wasn’t my type:

He wasn’t wealthy. 

He wasn’t big and dark haired and he didn’t look like Superman

No boat or a Porsche or huge business. 

Tim was about the exact opposite of my type.  He was the same height I was, slim and muscular with light hair and glasses and when I wore heels I was about 3 inches taller.  Tim was quirky and he liked retro fashion, house music, and he had a 1969 Caddilac the size of a boat.  He was smart and loud and charismatic.  And Tim was really fun.

I spent an entire night on my knees praying for guidance. 

And God challenged me on my type.  I had to trust that God would provide for me financially.  I had to trust that I would still feel sexy and small and taken care of with a man who didn’t dwarf me in size.  I had to trust that good character and honesty, a heart for God and spiritual leadership were more important than my type. 

I had to surrender to God. 

He brought the right man to me but I had to recognize the good gift right in front of me.

So I said yes to God and yes to Tim.

I recognized that being obsessed with what people think of me is the quickest way to forget what God thinks. You will never be able to please all people. But, you can live a life that is pleasing to God.

Matthew 7:1-2 says:

Judge not lest you be judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

We do this so often in dating.  We make quick rash judgments based on looks, career, height, and bank account.

And we miss out on some of the greatest people because of our broken thinking.

Matthew 22:37-39 speaks to this. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

I don’t like to be labeled!  I’m a Pastors Wife.  That’s like a comedy routine of awkwardness just waiting to be scripted. 

People confess to me.  They tell me their church attendance.  Then they swear and swear some more apologizing at their gaffe.

It makes me want to swear just to make them feel better. (Ok, maybe I just like to say a bad word occasionally)

So why do I judge other people if I hate it so much?

When I catch myself discounting people.  I stop, recognize the lie and reprogram my brain with the truth.

I am so happy I took a risk on a guy that wasn’t my type.  I’m so glad I ripped off the labels on myself and the ones I put on him. 

I love my pastor husband.  He leads me spiritually, he is fun and open and easy to talk to.  He’s a great daddy.  He respected my purity and helped to restore much of my dignity after a devastating divorce.  He loves my kids and he loves God.  I am the one who was blessed.

So here is my advice:

Let go of the labels!

Go out with anyone once and then go out again (unless they are a stalker or crazy). 

Reflect on your date. 

Pray, pray and pray some more. 

Open yourself up to real humans not labels.

Get rid of the beer goggles.

We need to see through God’s eyes.

The great theologian Blaise Pascal says this:

Not only do we not know God except through Jesus Christ; we do not even know ourselves except through Jesus Christ.”—

What would it look like if we stopped operating out of our brokenness when we dated and instead operated out of love? 

 

When Your Teen Dates

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No parent knows what their kid will be like once they get into a relationship.

I certainly didn’t.

I hoped my son Kyle would be respectful, but after a series of Jr. High texting relationships which lasted well into high school, I wasn’t sure if any girl would move pass the social media realm and penetrate his heart for more than a ten minute crush.

But I was wrong.

My son has been in a relationship with his girlfriend Grace for about four months.  A few weeks ago they made it official and now they even have their own Instagram hashtag–#Gryle

This is serious people.

Now, my poor son has been the recipient of years of dating advice from his parents.  It’s what we write, speak and blog about.  And Kyle could probably regurgitate our shtick back to us in his sleep.

But I never knew if he truly listened—I mean really heard us—and internalized our message on dating differently.

Fortunately, I have been surprised on a million levels.

First of all, Kyle picked well.  Grace is not only lovely on the outside but on the inside as well.  She is intelligent, light-hearted, and family oriented.  She loves God, respects people and is a fiercely competitive athlete—something they both share.  She’s nice to animals, little sisters and mothers and I think this bodes well for her future.

And I really love her mom to boot.  Could it get any better?

Kyle and Grace have boundaries around school, sports and their own pursuits.  They encourage one another and push each other to excel.  It’s bizarrely mature.  And although they text each other it’s not an all day affair.  It’s after the home work is put away and the workouts are done, or a quick shout-out on the way home from school.

(I counsel thirty-five year olds who haven’t figured this out yet)

Next, Kyle treats Grace like gold. He cherishes her and respects her.  He is interested in her well-being on all levels—not just making out and hanging out (although they do those things a lot too).  But, Kyle cares about her as a person and not as a thing.  And Grace reciprocates.  It is mutual affection based on respect and appreciation.

And here is where I am deeply humbled.

Was I a part of this?  I know it’s a culmination of dad and mom and step-parents and mentors, but in a world where men treat women like objects, my son, despite being assaulted by porn and Victoria’s Secret and the onslaught of an over-sexualized culture is choosing to be different.

I know he will make many mistakes going forward (on top of those in the past) but watching him treat a woman with dignity makes my heart soar!

Especially because at that age I let men treat me badly.  I didn’t understand I was worth more.  My son’s behavior  is redemptive for me as a woman and I thank God for his grace and mercy.

(Now we just have to make sure Faith and Kolby don’t carouse with douche-bags who treat them poorly)

The biggest issue I have is that this whole experience is so wonderful I don’t want it to ever end.

I’ll dream and pray none the less—maybe high school sweethearts can still make it in our crazy world?

–Samantha

 

Just as an update on my parents and a BIG THANKS to all who are praying.  My mom is on hospice now at home.  She has stopped chemo and all treatment for her pancreatic cancer.  We are enjoying the time she has left and pouring out our love on her in abundance.  Most of my days are now spent at their home in La Quinta trying to capture her smile and elegance and etch it into my memory forever.  My step-dad is doing a beautiful job of caring for her, along with family and friends, and hospice is a God-send.

My dad is at a secure Alzheimer’s facility in Beaumont.  He is recovering from three surgeries after he jumped off a ten-foot balcony at Christmas from paranoia due to his brain disease.  Mentally, he is pretty much gone and it’s heart-breaking.  He thought my step-mom was Santa the other day.  Physically, he is still having some complications from the broken back, compound fracture of the tibia and fibula and shattered ankle.  The pin has come loose from the ankle and the hole from the pin is infected.  Please pray for healing and comfort as we journey down this very difficult road with him.  I miss him desperately! 

AAAHHH! My Son Brought a Girl Home!

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I saw lots of adorable scarecrows costumes this Halloween—dainty Dorothy’s with a Toto peeping from a basket spilling over with candy—and of course, spooky green witches—but not once did I encounter my favorite character—the cowardly lion.

In all honesty, I believe it’s the costume that best represents us all—a fearful people—raging and roaring in image management as we tremble in our boots and hope no one see through us.

We have moments of glory where we roar our terrible roars and knash our terrible teeth, and then reality rears its ugly head and we go back to worrying about the bills and our health, Obamacare and North Korea, our marriages, teenagers, and a million other concerns.

Fear steals our joy and anxiety makes tyrants of all, but courage—glorious courage—when it breaks through—shines like the light of a million stars.

I saw a glimpse of a courageous little lion stepping out of her comfort zone and into bravery the other night.

On Halloween evening, a friend of Kyle’s—a specific Girl friend stopped by the house to meet us.  The beautiful young lady, accompanied by a friend and her mom, walked up to the door and introduced herself.

Grace and Kyle—while not officially dating—have a strong fondness for each other.  I can see the sparkle in her eyes when she looks at my son.  At the Varsity football games, when they call his name over the loud-speaker for a tackle, she squeals with delight.  She wears his number #34 proudly on her cheek and she even dressed in one of old jerseys for Halloween. 

They are sweet together—it’s high emotion and furious texting and the blood racing tingles of high school romance. 

And to their benefit, these two are trying to navigate the space of family, church, age-appropriateness and really liking each other in a God honoring way

So what was so scary to Grace?  Apparently us. 

Meeting the parent’s—the scary dating experts—the pastor and the blogger—the mom of her crush—were all just terrifying to the poor girl.

I can’t imagine how awkward it was for her.  I was dressed as a saloon girl and Tim was a cowboy.  Our porch was covered in candles, strobe lights, pumpkins, bats and thumping ghoulie tunes.  Kids and neighbors poured over our walkway. 

It was funny way to meet the first girl he’s ever brought home—strangely formal, bizarre, and so endearing.

But I knew if Kyle was making the effort to include us we’d better pay attention.

And so little Grace—the competitive gymnast with the strawberry blond hair—bucked up, put on her big girl pants and braved the parents. 

Although I don’t know her very well and I’m not sure I’m ready for dating, I like how Grace operates. 

Fear does not define her.  She moved at the scary ‘meet the parents “moment with quaking feet and a fluttering heart, (our son told us this all later) but the point is she moved.  She planted those feet on our porch and stuck out her hand with a smile.

Grace defined her circumstances instead of letting her fear (or circumstances) define her.

The cowardly lion ends up learning courage because there is something MORE important enough in his life than the fear to make it worth the frightening journey.

And it makes this mama smile to think my son was the important thing that motivated her to be brave. 

Is there something scary or overwhelming in your life where you need an extra dose of courage?

5 Tips to Stay Crazy in Love

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One of the best dates with my hubby was actually a dare.

We were DARED to go to Fashion Island, dress up like fools, sing to the crowd, and then ask some older married couples the secret to a long and satisfying marriage.

Dressing up was a kick, singing (or maybe screeching) at the top of our lungs as rich people averted their eyes and a dog in a stroller howled at us was a wee bit more difficult(and humbling), but approaching the couples for advice was downright fun and eye-opening.

Why, oh why, don’t I listen more to the wisdom of people who fought the good fight (relationally) and won?

Hollywood’s advice stinks, celebrities ditch relationships on a whim, and Disney and Playboy aren’t making it any easier on us either.

Want to know what these awesome couples said?

Here are the tips we learned from couples married 45+ years who still hold each other’s hand and are madly in love…

1. Listen

After the first older gent we confronted at Nordstrom’s (who didn’t run away) stopped laughing at our outfits, he was glad to share from his heart. 

He said the single most important thing in his marriage was to shut up and listen more

Listening to your spouse, instead of always trying to prove your point, brings nothing but the best to your life together. When you listen, you’ll discover insight on how you can love the other person more deeply. You’ll see a picture of their heart—their hopes and dreams, hurts and fears. You’ll piece together why your spouse operates the way they do. You’ll discover belief systems and thoughts that affect your relationship. If you think you ALREADY know everything about them, you’ve already stopped listening. 

Both you and your spouse will continue to change, mature, grow and learn until the day you are called into eternity.  Don’t stop learning about the priceless creation God has entrusted YOU with to cherish.

The next man said this…

2. Recognize Your Spouse’s worth

Recently, a friend of ours had a tumor removed from his brain.  His wife has been blogging and sharing about their journey.  Many times, I have been brought to tears as she describes the beauty of character and humility of her husband through this trial.

Deanna values her husband’s Jon’s worth and she lives it loud.  (check out www.DeannaRamsay.com for her blog)

When you value someone’s worth, you don’t belittle or tear down that person. You also won’t take even one day for granted.  You will cherish their heart and build them up in front of others. When you see the true worth in your partner, you’ll appreciate what this person brings into your life on a daily basis.

And you will shout out loud (like Deanna) for the world to hear, because you know you’ve got a good thing.

3. Forgive

We met another older couple from the Middle East outside the food court.  The man was adamant on how “the forgiveness factor”  impacts marriage.

(He also suggested to the guys, to always let the wife win, hee hee!)

No matter how googly-eyed and in love you are, two imperfect human beings are going to hurt each other with insensitive words, selfish actions, and occasional neglect. Forgiving each other is the foundation for any lasting and loving relationship. Without forgiveness, small offenses and wounds accumulate like a fortress in your heart.

Commit to tearing down these fortress walls (on a regular basis) before you can’t see over them anymore.

The Middle Eastern man’s wife said this, “Divorce is not an option where we come from(Palestine), so take it (divorce) out of the equation and learn how to have fun together since you are stuck together.” 

4. Have Fun

I guess if we are stuck together, laughing is better than crying.  And my husband makes me laugh like no one else.  When we sneak away and go on a date, I fall in love with him all over again.  I like who I am with him and he likes who he is with me.  We are better together than apart and I always say (away from uptight church circles) that my husband puts the F and the U in FUN!

Science backs this couple up on their “fun theory.”  Laughing alleviates stress, improves communication, gets past image management, and releases feel-good hormones in the brain. It builds lasting memories, helps heal old hurts, and binds hearts together.

Maybe your spouse is like Tim –always busting you up, or maybe you are both serious in nature, but you laugh at the same dumb movies.

No matter where you uncover the F and the U and the N, laugh together and have some fun.  Apparently, laughing matters!

5. Find a Nice Gal

This comes from my father-in-law, but I had to throw it in.  He told Tim, no matter what; find a nice and kind woman.  I think what he meant was, bitchy women are great to have crushes, on but don’t marry them. 

I like this advice and it certainly applies to both men and women.  When it comes to the daily decision to love, kindness is king. First, it shows appreciation. It also builds up security. It’s difficult to be in a relationship with someone whom you have to walk on eggshells around because you never know when the next constructive criticism or putdown is coming.

What are some of your best marriage tips?

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Is Purity Even Relevant Today?

There are many reasons to wait for sex –good reasons, lame reasons, and even churchy reasons.   But there aren’t many compelling reasons to actually deter most of us from the dirty deed. 

Sex feels good and life is hard enough, so goshdangdarnit, what kind of overbearing big brother meanie wants to take away all our fun any-who?

I never had to deal with all the Christian angst of dating the first time around.  I was just a big old sinner.  After a solid year in a sorority much of my anxiety swirling around sex dissipated.  I determined I was a decent person “morally,” compared to the other slutty coeds, because I reserved sex solely for relationships (which might have included friends with benefits too).

I picked up my ex-husband in a bar when I was twenty-one.  Three and a half years later we married and sometime in between meeting him and saying “I do,” I fell in love again and brought another guy into the relationship.

It was Jesus.

About a year into the whole Christian dealio, I tried to get on board with the fire and brimstone “purity” message I heard preached at my church –apparently to scare all the singles into behavior modification.  So I tentatively asked my (then) fiancé if we could cease having sex and wait until we were married to resume our intimacy. 

He vehemently said “no,” Ummmm.  Ok.

Ten years later when my ex-husband departed into the arms of another woman and left me with two small children I finally got my chance to try dating as a Christian.

But I don’t know if I was in any way more prepared despite the Christian sticker on my bumper.

Yes…I had given my heart and soul to Jesus.  I knew all the Bible verses, taught women’s Bible studies and was even enrolled in seminary.  And yet I still slipped up in the sex area.

I wanted to honor God.  I earnestly tried HARD in my dating relationships to avoid sex.  And it worked –once.  I was in one relationship where we were both committed to purity and didn’t compromise (and then I found out he was still “technically” married and that ended fast).  But the other five relationships, during my time as a single Christian woman were a little murkier.  We might not have had intercourse, but then again President Clinton redefined modern sex anyway, right?

When I met Tim Keller, now my darling hubby, I was living in this wishy-washy land of sexual compromise.  I wanted to be pure but I’m not sure I believed it was even possible.  I didn’t meet many men, even supposed good Christian men, who actually walked the talk. 

Pastor Tim Keller was an anomaly –an attractive single straight man of thirty-six years who didn’t grab my boobs on the second date.  And even though he wasn’t wealthy from a worldly perspective, usually a non-negotiable in my materialistic heart, he was hot, clearly loved Jesus and had CHARACTER (something lacking in most of the men I dated).

When Tim asked me to be his girlfriend, about five weeks after we started dating, he slipped a purity ring on my finger and fell to one knee.  He implored me, “to wait for him, to wait for God to bless our relationship, and to give “us” a chance to build true intimacy without sex complicating things.”

It sounded like a lot of waiting and I’m not that patient.

And so I freaked out (internally of course) and smiled and cried tears of sheer terror, thinking “How in the heck am I going to remain sexually pure when this man is so yummy?”

Tim also told me he had a zero tolerance policy for error.  If we messed this up: (A) he would not marry me, and (B) he would resign from the church for moral failure.

Now I didn’t want the poor man to lose his job, but dangling the condition of “sex=no wedding” really sealed the deal.   I was head over heels in love with Tim by then and I wanted to marry this man so bad I would wear a habit and chastity belt with a big lock impervious to his washboard abs if I had to.

But something drastic happened to me during our fifteen month courtship.  Something so radical it rocked me to the core.

First, I became aware of how often I pushed to be physical because I needed reassurance that Tim cared for me and was committed to the relationship.  I saw how I used my sexuality to manipulate, to hold power over and to get the attention I desperately craved.

Without sex I had to learn how to ask for what I needed.  I was able to see how Tim treated me even when I didn’t meet all his physical needs, what it meant to work out our problems with no “make-up sex” to gloss over the deeper issues, and I had to learn how to compromise –because I couldn’t hold out on the booty to get what I wanted.

Poor Tim!  I tempted him in the beginning.  I was so bad.  I wore a pink string bikini to a singles ski retreat we both attended and had the audacity to rock it at the hot tub –heathen temptress that I am.  But he held fast, kept his hands to himself and didn’t get out of the Jacuzzi for a very long time.

And slowly I realized by his not being physical, he was actually showing me he loved me.

Real love.  Not SEX/LOVE…the kind of love that holds your hand when you are losing the fight to cancer.   It’s love that sees beauty under the wrinkles and bald spots. It’s love that protects and heals and cherishes.  It’s the sort of love that doesn’t leave when it gets tough and its old people in the park holding hands kind of love.

And Tim was telling me by his behavior I was worth waiting for.  With every smile he told me I was a beautiful treasure and he would not steal from me until it was time to enjoy this gift from God –within a committed marriage relationship.

And somewhere along the way I started to buy into it.  (Not so easy when you have abandonment issues) And I saw, really saw, for the first time in my life the way God sees me.

Valuable.  Treasured.  Worth dying for.

And I believed it –because someone showed me a glimpse of the divine.

Purity isn’t just about being a good Christian and playing by the rules.  It’s about treating another human being with dignity and respect, even when they don’t deserve it.

Purity restored me. 

I am a different person because of my husband. Tim Keller walked the talk. 

And maybe God tells us to wait for sex not because he’s mean, but because he loves us more than we love ourselves.

Sounds like a compelling reason to me.

How Far is too Far?

When I tell people how long my engagement was –a mere four and a half months, they look surprised.

“Well we waited,” I stammer trying to explain.

“Oh, so you dated for many years and then you finally tied the knot?”

“Uuuhhh, no…we dated for fifteen months and WAITED to have sex.”

“What? Why? Are you Mormon?”

“No.”

Blank stare.

And so I explain why we chose purity and a bit of our story (see “Is Purity Relevant Today” for an explanation).  But then the inevitable happens.  The sex questions start.

“Ok, so I get the beautiful romance part.  You guys have this awesome God love, but how did you know the sex part wouldn’t suck? “

And I know what they are really saying is… “What if he can’t perform?  He could be a secret eunuch, or have erectile dysfunction, or be weird, or a thousand other awfuls.  And how would a silly little pure girl know?”  Smart girls apparently try the meat before they buy the bull.

Big gulp.  “I knew his parts worked because for fifteen months he lived in a constant state of anticipation.  No amount of denim can hide that.  When he kissed me goodnight I could tell the man had finesse.  When he cuddled me I knew he was tender. And when I looked into his eyes I saw raw desire -a caged lion waiting to be unleashed on our honeymoon night.

“But how far did you go?  Where did you draw the line?”

When people ask me this I want to weep.  Because it means there is a fundamental disconnect between their belief in God and BELIEVING God.  And I know the difference because I walked down this road too many times.

Here is what I discovered…If I BELIEVE God, I trust that waiting for the booty will be awesome.  I trust He loves me more than I love myself.  I trust He has a chosen a man and/or woman who will delight me.  And ultimately I trust if I follow his guidance I won’t be unsatisfied.

If I believe in God but make up my own rules I am operating under selfish tendencies.  I take because I feel entitled.  I corrupt because God is withholding.  I use sex to get my needs met-attention, power, control, release, and manipulation.  Sex becomes an act. 

When I remove God, who is love, out of the mix I remove real love from sex.  You might love sex.  You might even feel loving towards the person you are sleeping with.  But let’s be honest here…real love is patient, it is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud, it does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking.  It does not rejoice in evil, it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. (From 1 Cor. 13)

When was the last time your hook-up encapsulated any one of these?

Real love doesn’t leave you wondering if the guy is going to jump out of bed in the morning and bail before you smell the Folgers.  Real love showers your front door with rose petals on Valentine’s Day instead of a text at 4:00pm saying “Happy Heart Day.”  Real love doesn’t push for a blow job because it’s technically not intercourse.  And real love doesn’t leave a girl in the dark wondering how he feels about her. 

I wasn’t disappointed on my wedding night (don’t want to boast here).  But even if there were issues, I am confidant my husband would have been open with me.  Love does not deceive.  So when I hear about people who played by all the rules and waited for sex and then had problems, I have to ask if maybe they substituted rules instead of relationship: if authenticity and vulnerability were masked by a fear of being known?  The idea of naked and unashamed is not merely sexual -it includes full disclosure.

Purity is about love.  About treating someone the way you want to be treated -with honor and respect.  It’s not about how far you can bend the rules.  That’s just a warped form of legalism. 

How far did Tim and I go?  We kissed.  We necked like high school kids at a Drive In theatre and there were too many nights to count when Tim actually got up to run to the restroom and called me from his car ten minutes later.  Like Joseph he fled from temptation, even though half the time I didn’t even know he was struggling.  He also had a group of guys holding him accountable.

But everyone’s limits are different.  If you can’t kiss a girl without ripping off her clothes then don’t kiss her.  Give her a peck on the check.  If holding hands makes you crazy…well then you might need some professional help.  And if you tell me you can go really far without any issues, you’ve missed the point entirely.  (Re-read 1 Cor. 13). 

Waiting might look different to each individual and/or couple but purity is the same. It’s not about how far is too far -it’s about choosing to BELIEVE God has got your back and marriage is well worth the wait!

Formal Drama

It’s been a week of ‘formal drama” –Winter Formal to be exact.

My freshman son asked a girl to the dance.  This isn’t a big deal normally, but the girl he asked is kind of a big deal.  She is a gorgeous professional surfer and model currently living in Hawaii. 

Clearly my boy has no problem aiming high with the ladies.

Kyle asked her through Facebook and amazingly the blond beauty said yes.

Until she said no.

Her dad, also a professional surfer decided to add a competition on the day of the dance and therefore delay their families return.  The mom (did I mention she is a model too?) did not want the family flying apart and so the hopes of my boy were crushed.

The girl texted him to let him know she wouldn’t make it.

In the back of my mind I always doubted this date would occur.  When I look at the Facebook photos for their family I see stunning celebrities partying on the beach and living the high life.

I struggle to understand how THAT life intersects with ours. 

Pastors and Pro Tour Surfers?  Sounds a bit complicated…

In our “Catholic school reality” we have STRICT dress codes for dances.  No cleavage, no short dresses and no skin allowed.  From what I’ve seen of her skimpy wardrobe and itty bitty bikini’s, I’m guessing this girl doesn’t own a dress that would get past our Nuns.

Now I can understand why my son would want the golden girl to accompany him. 

But I can’t understand why the super awesome family wouldn’t rearrange their entire life so my darling son could take their daughter to the dance. (Yes…this is me being sarcastic)

Kyle took it well, but I was bummed. I might have even cried a little when no one looked. 

But because my son is a fighter, he got right back up in the saddle and asked another beauty to accompany him.

And this one said yes!

Not only did she say yes, she filled out the permission form within twelve hours and had her principal sign it.  She and her mom hand delivered it to my son’s school, bought a dress and ordered a corsage within a day.

I love this girl! 

This lovely young lady attends Santa Margarita, another Catholic high school in the area.   And…I didn’t even have to explain the stringent dress code.  She already got in trouble at another dance so she knows the routine.

Although Kyle’s initial dream date didn’t work out, I’m proud of the way he handled his disappointment. 

And who knows?  This one might be the real catch…

Have you had a recent disappointment turn into a blessing in disguise?

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