Life’s Ebb and Flow, God’s Timing?

I’m almost 59. And that’s one year from 60. He’s nearly 64.

In many ways I don’t feel that old. Yes, my knees ache after intense hiking and climbing (today it’s 29 flights and over 4 miles). I have an autoimmune disease, which is thankfully under control at the moment.  That changes in an instant. I think I still have a young heart and great sense of adventure. I don’t think I’ve seen or done it all, much less enough. There’s so much more to experience and learn in this life.

And there’s so much I’m not prepared to give up.

Five years ago I set about trying to improve things in my life. I lost weight and tried to manage my heath and fitness better. I owned up to my husband of 20 years specifically what I needed to remain in a fulfilling, loving and happy marriage (it pretty much boiled down to just wanting to feel pursued and desired). We had both spent many sad years expecting each other to read minds. Along the way I also learned that so much of the change I wanted had to do with me.

But at that time (and even today) it was still undeniable we each had very different sexual appetites and needs. I craved intimacy more often, and desired intense Image result for sexual difficulties in a relationshipexperiences; he was ok with gentle, sedate, and less frequent sex. He worked hard, was devoted to our kids, and generally exhausted. He was starting to have issues with ED (which in addition to creating a physical issue, also messes with your mind and ego), and after many discussions he acquiesced to trying the little blue pill. We tried to find a happy medium to match our differing sexual desires, after many years of mismatched sexuality and misunderstandings. His lack of aggressive pursuit (or avoidance) made me feel unloved and undesired. My frustrations came out to him as disrespect (and anger).

We talked. And we talked. We read. I wrote. We tried to bridge the gap between our low-need and high-need. We discussed what made us feel loved and satisfied and frisky. We tried new things. Sometimes it felt great, sometimes it felt contrived or forced. Each time he defaulted to old ways, I became upset and felt that the needs and preferences I expressed were just not important to him. I didn’t want to complain– but gradually over the past year, I felt we were slipping back to a time where there was little or no pleasure for me, and our connection was getting lost again.

Passion was gone. Tender and secure love is our reality now. And those aren’t bad things to have, I remind myself. Many have far less.

Image result for low testosteroneDoes sex and passion have an expiration date? Do we just grow out of it? (For our ages, we have “normal” hormone levels (aka, lower).  Replacing hormones/testosterone carries unwelcome risks, so we choose to follow a healthy lifestyle that can optimize testosterone; we’re beginning to try Essential Oils in the bedroom).  We have found ourselves back where we sort of began– two very different needs going unmet. Our sex now is basically “connection sex.” It is loving, the closeness and touching is welcome and appreciated; but it’s not thrilling or intensely pleasurable for me, and therefore less and less something I look forward to. I’m unable to orgasm with him (it always has been a rare occurrence), yet can experience multiple and intense orgasms “alone.” I know what feels good to me; he doesn’t seem to, and apparently I’ve failed to relate it to him in a way that makes sense.  While his physical needs are being met, I’m sure my disconnect, due to lack of pleasure pleasure, leaves him feeling emotionally void. Because I want to avoid disappointment, my desires for my husband at times seem dwindled to next to nothing.

I still love him. He is my world. However no amount of discussion, mental build up, guidance, artificial lubricant, or sex toys changes this loss of desire. It’s not because I don’t like sex; but because I know it won’t be much more than connecting, and seldom results in him conferring pleasure. Sometimes it feels like a “must do” akin to brushing my teeth– and I hate that feeling. Although I realize that age plays a part in decreasing libido and erotic responses, my husband, whom I love, does not evoke these in me, nor does he seem interested.

Image result for unmatched sexual

And while I promised (myself and him) during our renewal never to say “no” to him, it is getting harder and harder to say “yes” to physical union that feels mechanical, even forced. I despise that there are times I feel like I want to shut my eyes and have it over with fast, for the sheer frustration, betrayal of not achieving pleasure.

And it’s a bit frustrating not to know how to fix this. To feel there is no fix…

I considered what God thinks about this. Clearly He was not excluding “old people” from sex (OT Sarah and Abraham conceived Isaac at 90 and 100; NT Mary’s cousin Elizabeth gave birth to John the Baptist at an “advanced age,” possibly 88). God admonishes men “to rejoice in the wife of your youth.”

‭‭One-flesh union does not seem to have an expiration date according to God’s word. God Related imagecould have given either of these couples a child at an earlier age; yet besides showing that God is capable of doing anything, I also believe he shows us there’s no “sell by” date on sexuality between a husband and wife.

Changes in sexuality as we age is not a topic often discussed openly. I’ve heard well-meaning couples on both side of this issue: enjoying sex immensely, getting experimental, and intensifying love and closeness as they age; or resigned that sex a thing of the past, and you are simply happy for each other’s company.

It just makes me sad to “acquiesce” to the latter.

There’s so much I’m not prepared to give up.

Posted in On Love | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Diamonds from the Ashes

I’ve not done a great job on taking my own advice of late.  I’ve been in a blah mood, and not so nice to hubby.  I’ve not been practicing my loving thoughts and attitudes.  Yeah, maybe a little bitchy.  Sometimes I revert to those dire thoughts of whether we really Image result for missing passion in a relationshipshould be together.  I stop feeling pursued or special.  Passion had started taking a nose-dive for us.  There is a tendency to get lazy about intentionality in expressions of love, passion, and intimacy.  This often feels like a reversion to a time when we were merely co-existing under the same roof as virtual roommates–and it puts me into a panic.  The panic makes me not very nice.

For some reason, for all of the good we’ve had, February was not an easy month relationally.  And thank God we did communicate when my bad mood grew toxic.  Just wish we could communicate before I’m in crisis mode.

We are barely a year into the new chapter of our lives, the one where suddenly the demands and busy-ness of life has come to a screeching halt.  We are “retired,” at a fairly young age (and happy to be out of the stresses of the “rat race”).  We make our own schedules.  We try to remain gainfully involved in activities and causes outside ourselves.  But it’s still A LOT of time together, a state we’ve never before experienced.

If absence makes the heart grow fonder, what does proximity do?

Another chapter we started not to long ago is Image result for absence makes the heart grow fonder butmending and reviving our marriage.  About five years ago, we were headed towards a messy ending.  By the grace of God, we pulled our marriage out the fire, and have been dusting off the ashes in search of those diamonds ever since.

Some days are definite diamonds.  We both work on being the love that we promised to be in a covenant relationship. We count our hundreds of blessings in this life.

Some days are coal and dust.  The old nature and habits creep in: the laziness, the “take-for-granted,” the impatience, the little annoyances, the mean spirited sarcasm; and threaten to sabotage marital happiness.

In the day-to-day, we are learning how to work this and establish routines that keep us fruitfully occupied.  We each have separate exercise plans; he’s taking adult learning classes; I’m volunteering with a local church and also tutoring.  We both read, but he out-reads me 10 to 1.  I write: I out-write him 10 to 1.  We do local hikes, kayaking, events, tours, and museums; occasional movies and dinner out.  We’ve never been big TV people, but have taken to watching some of the mini-series we missed when life was so busy.  I’ve attempted to draw up a chore chart to share the wealth of keeping our small place clean; asked if he could be “in charge” of cooking one meal a week.   We don’t have many friends in our new locale, but as this is my old town, I do get to occasionally meet up with old friends. And we enjoy entertaining friends who visit.  We are learning to be alone together when we need to be.

When we “retired” (I prefer to call it “reinventing ourselves” and “the next chapter”) a friend “mentioned the three Ps for retirement:  A Plan, a Passion, and a Purpose.  To be successfully retired, you need these things.  It can’t all be serendipity.  And it can’t be 24/7 getting into each other’s way.
img_5725

Our current passion is world travel, and we plan to do that for at least the next decade while we have our relative good health, mobility, and funds. We have a substantial bucket list, and although we’ve done all 50 states and 40+ countries, there’s so much more to see!  The up side is that we see the big beautiful world, and experience other cultures, foods, sights and languages.  There’s a lot of joy in this, and the memories that result. The down side is that travel can be stressful, AND it puts you in close proximity to one another for extended periods of time.

Both of us traveled successfully as singles, and I recall many times watching that sunset alone, or seeing that amazing castle or painting or mountaintop, wishing there was someone to share the awe and beauty with me.  Yet both of us have slightly different approaches to travel, and this can at times work at cross purposes.  It is my “talent” that I can find good deals, and SJ is happy to leave this to me (especially since my Image result for missing passion in a relationshipcleanliness and comfort requirements are a bit more stringent than his; he doesn’t cock an eyebrow at a flea-bag hotel).  I also happen to be a little better at navigation.  SJ is better at reading the history guides and finding the best spots to tour. He can walk serendipitously for hours on end; I need a plan, and periodic and enjoyable coffee breaks at lovely cafes. We try really hard to compliment each other’s travel styles, but don’t always succeed. Sometimes we get quite annoyed with each other.  Sometimes I bemoan his reluctance to lead or be decisive.  Instead of the back and forth, “where do you want to go… what do you want to do…” I just cut it off and make the decision, take the lead.  And then I get really tired of always making the decisions.  I’ve actually requested him to take a day to make all the decisions for us. I promise to not be Image result for traveling as a couplepicky about the decisions he makes.

So this is the fatal flaw in our “plan.” If we get annoyed in close proximity, travel together is a tricky pursuit.  If I want a husband-leader, it won’t happen as we follow our passion of travel.  And given that we’ve boarded an airplane six times in 2017 by mid-February; and will have traveled half way across the globe by the end of this month, we have lots of opportunities to get on each other’s nerves.  And can I just say, I truly would love it to not be this way?

I’d love to be walking into countless gorgeous sunsets over turquoise and cerulean waters, hand in hand and so totally in love and blown away by God’s creations.  Enjoying the exotic tastes and smells and people of distant places.Image result for travel sunset hand in hand

We are about to leave for nearly a month of travel.  Two weeks is planned out for us with a larger group, so I’m guessing that will go well as it won’t just be only us two.  Then follows another 12 days together.

I am praying to find the peace and joy of this passion of travel, with him at my side.  To be grateful that we have this awesome opportunity.  To be grateful for him, for us, for our love.

To be love.

Posted in On Being Imperfect Me, On Marriage | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Be the Leader She Needs

We possibly can agree upon the characteristics of good leadership:Related image

  • Authoritative
  • Capable
  • Decisive
  • Logical Planner
  • Ability to motivate
  • Clear statements of intentions
  • Consideration of needs and interests
  • Listening skills
  • Trustworthy (evokes trust)
  • Fair
  • Delegates (i.e., uses the strengths of others to help complete tasks/accomplish goals)

I’m sure there may be other characteristics, but I believe these to be some of the key traits.  I tried to think about how a commander of a platoon leads, how a CEO in a major company leads, how a coordinator of a volunteer activity guides others, how a teacher in a classroom leads and motivates, how a mother manages her children, how a wife manages the home front, especially if your title is SAHM.

And, of course, the leader-husband.

Does this animal exist any more?

Chances are, there is some area in your life in which you lead.  You are good at something, and others look to you for inspiration, guidance. and direction.

For some of us ladies who put on many leadership hats, we can struggle to allow others to lead, even husbands.  I didn’t used to be good at it, but I’m improving.  It has a lot to do with patience and not always having my way.

Image result for husband leading wifeThere is no question that I feel a sense of security and well-being when my husband is leading strongly and confidently, and when he’s making decisions for our family.  I often have had to remind him in the past 4-5 years of our renewal that I crave his “commands” versus his “queries.”  His decisive actions versus his hesitation.  His confidence versus his insecurity. I have taken my control freak down a few notches to try to nourish his control mode.  But sometimes it’s just a reflex, something in my muscle memory.

We started off in this marriage as two very capable leaders who had many years under our belts in the workforce and in other life endeavors.  We both knew how to take care of business, and how to take care of ourselves.  We both had traveled the globe independently, and always found our way home in one piece. Before meeting SJ, there certainly were things I didn’t care to do, the things I chauvinistically term as “guy things.”  Not to say women shouldn’t do such things as car repairs, oil changes, yard work, carpentry, plumbing and electrical (and bug killing).  I had a very skilled and handy father. It seemed there was nothing he couldn’t fix or build.  I knew the names and uses of most tools, nails, screws and fasteners in a tool box, owned my own power drill, and actually enjoy assembling most basic things, such as IKEA furniture.  Dad was a perfectionist.  Things lined up.  Nails were driven straight.  Edges were flush.  Engine oil didn’t gush over. You did it RIGHT.

SJ knew his way around a tool box, and could take care of the basics. He was doing just fine when I met him at 37.  He diligently made sure car and home maintenance were hired out and taken care of. He never shirked from hard work, or rolling up his sleeves to get a job done, like the lawn, but handyman stuff wasn’t fun for him. Unlike my Dad, he preferred to spend his spare time with his kids rather than a home repair project.

After building one of our first bookshelves together, I saw his style was more chill than mine.  If he struggled to turn a screw all the way in to be flush, he was OK leaving it part way out. Things weren’t always lined up. From my perfectionist background, it frustrated me. Either you back out and figure out why it’s not lining up; or you just get the right tools or muscle power needed and drive that sucker in all the way.  I knew the strength and integrity of the finished piece depended on this, not just aesthetics.

So yes, we both came to marriage with lots of preconceived notions on how to do things, “the right way” (aka, “our way”).  And many of them were vastly different.  Once when I purchased office furniture for my new work space, he helpfully started to assemble a piece when I was out of town.  I controlled my angst, took a deep breath, and diplomatically told him that if he didn’t mind, I’d prefer and enjoy doing it ALL myself, and thank you very much for wanting to help.

The problem with being able to do many things well is that there may be few ways in which you can be led.  A leader could just say, “what’s the point?”  or, “My way will never measure up to her standards, why even try?”  Or, just make the assumption, “she doesn’t want my leadership.” It’s no big secret that I am a strong-willed woman. Seeking a man confident enough to lead me.

Image result for leadershipWe have always tried to be a team, but even a team needs a captain. I entrust the financial stuff to him because he’s really good at it, his little CPA brain actually enjoys adding up columns and balancing checkbooks, and tracking investments.  I love that I can trust him to do all this.  He leaves most household stuff and cooking to me.  Chances are if a light bulb or battery needs replacing, I’ll be doing it. We try to plan travel and outings together, or take turns.  I tend to have the better sense of direction and ability to use navigation tools.

It was the outing just the other day that got me thinking about leadership.  Since it was a beautiful spring-like day, he suggested visiting an arboretum in our area.  I was game, I loved the idea.  He’s the one who’d done all the reading up on it.  Given it was his suggestion, and his “expertise,” I was ready to sit back and happily follow his leadership and have a lovely outing together in nature with my man.

As we make our way out the door, I said, “So, you’re driving and I’ll navigate?”

“Uhm no, you can drive.”

“Oh.  Do you have the directions (as much as I LOVE to drive, I also struggle to follow his way of giving directions)?

“No,” he blithely responds.

At this point the ire begins to rise within me.  It’s not new, it’s achingly familiar.  I know Related imagethat I need to take control, I need to lead, because he hasn’t planned this or thought it through beyond the initial suggestion.  And this always irks me.  I take a deep breath, and pull out my phone to plug in the coordinates, semi-memorize them (Siri’s not talking these days over my car’s bluetooth, another navigational frustration), muttering something probably sarcastic, like, “Sheesh, you’d think if you suggested a plan you’d know how to get there… Oh, I’ll just do it all…

And from there on out, I knew I was in charge, I was the leader.  And I was disappointed.  He has taught me over the years that I always need to know where I’m going, I have to have a map, and I’m responsible.  I can’t rely on him.  He won’t take charge and lead even after announcing the plan–even though I really would have loved him to be in charge, to lead. 

When he belatedly whipped out his own phone and tried to give me directions, I just told him I already knew the way I planned to take.

At least at the arboretum I let him decide where we’d hike, and I tried to enjoy the good.

Yet through all of this, I mused (fumed) about leadership, or lack of it. I find myself often disappointed in his abdication of his leader role.  That I pretty much have to tell him in no uncertain terms, repeatedly, “I want you to be in charge of this, to make the decisions, to lead me.” He’ll rarely take the lead in day-to-day stuff concerning US unless I beg him.

I often play a little secret game.  If we’re out and about walking or running errands, I linger back and hesitate, waiting for him to choose the route, or make the moves or suggestions (I know it’ll never be a decisive, “we are doing xyz,” but rather “Do you want to do x, y, or z?”). I bury my thoughts and opinions, hoping he’ll just lead by default.  So what if he’s chosen the least direct route?  So what if I that restaurant isn’t my favorite?  I’ll silently follow!

And I still feel his indecisiveness.

He’ll sometimes say it’s because he’s afraid he won’t do things to my satisfaction. I might not like his plan.  Ouch.  I may have once seemed hard to please, but this is not the new me.  I go out of my way to compliment every lead he takes, to express my appreciation and confidence and trust.  And, I feel like this is a handy excuse, a cop out, and frankly it comes off a little wimpy.

I remind myself again of all those things he leads in so well, the money management, the bills.  We have food, shelter, clothing, fun, travel, and want for nothing due to his superior leadership in these areas.  I try hard not to take these things for granted.  And when he does lead, I also trust that he keeps me advised and in the loop, and that he welcomes my input.  He knows I am not shy about offering my opinion; but he also knows that I can surrender when he confidently tells me this is what is needed.  He doesn’t have a despotic bone in his body and I never fear he’d be unfair. I suppose I need to keep reminding him of this; I just hate asking him to lead.

But it also reminded me that one thing a good leader-husband can do is to be intuitive Related imageabout how your wife needs to be led. She’s probably telling you, are you listening?  Are you being lazy?  Are you making excuses?  Are you wimping out?  Can you occasionally take charge and plan something from A to Zed, confident that you are doing your best job and that no one is perfect, no plan is perfect (nor should anyone expect perfect)?  Can you just try?  I promise to follow!

Please be the leader I need. 

Posted in On Marriage | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Valentine’s Challenge

Image result for valentine challenge

There are all sorts of Valentine’s Day challenges and ideas for a romantic day.

One day.  Twenty four hours, and honestly, it may amount to a grand total of 2-3 hours with your special other.  Too many calories, too many expectations.

No, this isn’t a challenge for just Valentine’s Day.  It’s a challenge for every day. Especially if you have been feeling like your marriage could be better.

This is a “secret challenge” too.  You can’t tell your spouse about it.  Although keeping secrets isn’t usually a good idea, in this case there’s a good reason.

Here’s your challenge:

Be nice.

For the next 14 days:

  1. Be your sweetest self.  Refrain from all anger, sarcasm, disrespect, complaining, or impatience with your spouse.  If he ticks you off, suck it up, butter cup.  If he hurts your feelings, try to let it go. If he’s mean to you… and I know this is hard… just tell him in a unemotional tone, “Wow, that makes me sad,” and leave it at that.  Don’t repay mean with mean (“Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.” Prov. 18:2 and “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building up others according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Eph. 4:29)
  2. Kiss him in the morning, and kiss him in the evening, and any time in between you Image result for kiss a daycan.  When he turns to you and says, “what’s that for?”  “or what’s the matter with you?” just smile and say that you miss kissing him, and think that it’s a great habit to start up again.
  3. Smile at him a lot.  Listen attentively, meaning put down the phone, whatever… and just turn and listen to him like he is telling you the most wonderful thing in the world.  Even if he’s telling you the same story for the 100th time…  just let him feel listened to. And perhaps lose the need to be right all the time?  Some of the sexiest words for a man are “you are right.”
  4. When you’re apart, text him something sweet, funny, or sexy.  Tell him you’re thinking about him.
  5. Try to find at least one thing each day to affirm or compliment him about, preferably something you know he might be proud about.  Appreciate him, out loud.  Yes, I know this can be hard sometimes when you’ve felt icky about him.  “I’ve been thinking how grateful I am that you/we together can afford this nice house we live in/our car/your (our) jobs/that vacation last year/how you have fun with the kids/your sense of humor/how handy you are in fixing things/how you help your dad Thank you!” Please put aside that mind set of “well, that’s what he SHOULD be doing anyway!”
  6. Do things, cook things, arrange things in a way you know he likes.  If he craves peace when he gets home from work, give it to him after telling him you are happy he is home.  Make some of his favorite foods.  If seeing a made bed or an organized and uncluttered room makes him happy, grab a few grocery sacks, shove that junk into it, label your bag with the date and shove it into a dark closet (by the way, this is just a temporary fix for us cluttered ADD types… but you’ll be surprised that whenever you do find that bag that you probably have missed very little).
  7. Suggest a bath or shower together.
  8. Ask him if you can just give him a back rub.  Mow the lawn.  Or change his engine oil. give him a BJ and expect nothing in return. Some act of service that makes him feel happy.  Let him be right most of the time, for goodness sake!  Every guy has his currency…Image result for holding hands
  9. When you’re out and about, try to hold his hand, or link your arm in his.  If he’s not the hand-holding type (or if you’re not) this may feel awkward.  You can always just say, “you know I forgot what it feels like to hold your hand and I remember that I like it,” or “I’ve always wondered what it’s like to hold hands, and this isn’t so bad…”
  10. If he wants sex, even if you’re not in the mood, even if he’s not been attending to “your needs,” say yes, and enjoy his pleasure.

If after a few days of this, he looks at you strangely and quips something like, “what have you done with my wife?” or “what is going on with you?” just smile and say that you love him, and thought it was a better idea to put your energies into showing him that, and that Valentine’s Day seemed as good a time as any.  PERIOD.

Try to avoid initiating any heavy-duty conversations in this time period, especially about your relationship. And please don’t tell him you had a “plan,” or itemize all of the effort you’ve put forth to be nice over these 14 days.  He’d just feel like a lab experiment that you’re trying to manipulate.  If anything, see this exercise as something for your own character.  The side benefit is that it might be contagious and he’ll join you. It can open doors that have been sealed shut due to hurt and misunderstanding.  Let him start to realize that maybe your marriage is something worth working harder for.

Now I could feel some of you cringing on the other side of your computer screens; you were shaking your heads and saying, I can’t do THAT!  He doesn’t deserve me being so nice! You don’t know how mean he’s been to me!  You don’t know how selfish he’s been! He doesn’t deserve this! What about my dignity?  What do I get out of this?   

To that last point, you may get absolutely nothing out of it besides the satisfaction that you’ve become a better person and tried harder. That you can rise above the petty stuff. And perhaps you’ll be clearer that you might be in a seriously bad relationship (but I pray not), or a situation that requires professional help.

But what you might get is a husband who starts to reciprocate what he’s seeing in action, if only a little.  A husband who remembers what it feels like to be loved, respected, honored. To feel like he’s not always wrong, but maybe right sometimes?

Seriously, what have you got to lose?

I’m not asking you to be a doormat, or to be abused, or be used. Some are even saying, I do these things ALL THE TIME! If your man has been abusive to you, this is not designed to allow him to further abuse you emotionally, verbally, or physically (and this then is another conversation).  However, if your husband at one point  was your lover, the man you didn’t think you could live without, he’s probably still there buried under years of neglect, wear and tear.  All I’m suggesting is that you be love for 14 days, and to not engage negatively (and to be honest about your tendency to do that). Maybe let it go a few days longer if you’re seeing it might help.

Because you know, love is the most excellent way…

As I mentioned in my previous post about Valentines, I plan to pray the “love is” passage in 1 Corinthians 13 daily, inserting my own name in place of the word “love:”

… is patient, … is kind, … does not envy, … does not boast, … is not proud.  … does not dishonor others,  … is not self-seeking, … is not easily angered, …keeps no record of wrongs.  … does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  … always protects, always trusts, always homes, always perseveres.  … never fails.

Report back here!  Let us know how it’s going, the frustrations, the doubts–and hopefully some triumphs!  We can follow up on next steps after the end of the month.  I will be praying for you and encouraging you.  I’m praying healing and renewal and strengthening in your marriages, and this for you:

Let us not be weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  (Gal 6:9; Rom. 12:12; Rom. 8:28).

Posted in On Love, On Marriage | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Men and Communication

Image may contain: 1 person, text

Words.

Women are good at them.  We use lots of them.

Men might prefer to accomplish most things with a minimum of words.  You won’t catch a man yacking on the phone to his buddy for an hour.  Economy of words suit most men.

But honest communication is important.  And couples need to do it, regularly.

How do you get around these differences? How can a very loquacious lady express her thoughts to a man who might lose attention in 5 minutes flat?

[First, I suggest you try my Valentine 14-day challenge to smooth out the playing field for useful communication]

  1. The first rule of communication is that you need to be prepared to be an active listener.  Communication is two ways.  You can’t usurp the conversation. And DO NOT LECTURE.  If you can’t go there, YOU are not ready to communicate.
  2. Image result for couple communication quotesTell your man that you’d like to set aside some time to just talk about ideas to make your marriage even better and happier.  Yeah, first time out, he’s not going to like the sound of this. He may try to avoid it.  He suspects you are going to complain to him, or ask him to do something he doesn’t want to do. Please prove him wrong on this suspicion.
  3. Ask him what he considers reasonable amount of time for a conversation?  Thirty minutes seem what most men can tolerate.  If he knows there’s a reasonable time limit, he might be a better sport about it. Set a timer. If it goes off in the middle of something heavy, ask if he’s agreeable to go 5 more minutes; or pick it up at a later time you agree upon.
  4. Always pick a time when you don’t have any other demands or outside distractions.  Phones off.  Kids asleep, away, or with the babysitter. And not at bedtime, when you’re tired, if it can be helped. If you pray together, do that.  If not, just say a quiet prayer to yourself for a good communication.  Keep your focus on each other, make eye contact, nod, interact.
  5. Ground rules: no anger, no fighting, no accusations or insults. RESPECT. If it starts to get negative (i.e., you hit a road block or an emotional topic), take a break.
  6. You have a list of 10 things you want to talk about.  You get 2-3, tops, at a time.  Don’t overwhelm him!  Sometimes I actually have written out my list of topics, and I ask him which two we should talk about (thus handing him some control). Resist the temptation to get it all off your chest in one sitting, this will be counterproductive.
  7. Always start out your communication by telling him everything you appreciate and Image result for couple communication quoteslove about him. Things you are thankful for. Great memories you have.  Set things up positively.  Maybe this is hard, and you will need to dig a bit. Practice your sincere face in the mirror.  Let him know that you want to work hard– with him– to make your marriage happier and more exciting, and are interested to hearing his thoughts and suggestions–and be prepared to try harder!
  8. All requests for changes must be preceded by what we already love about our partner, expressions of what he does well.  He needs to feel respected and appreciated.
  9. Practice turning negative statements into positive (teachers do this: instead of “no running inside” we say “use your walking feet inside.”  I know, it’s not always easy or possible.  Statements should start with I feel/believe” rather than “When you do this, it makes me feel bad…”  Of course “When you do xyz, it makes me feel great” is an exception!  Another good phraseology is: “These are things that make me feel good/happy/loved… I like when you…”  Follow up with questions like, “how does all this make you feel?” and “What are some ways I can make you happier?” and be prepared to commit to a little change yourself. Be prepared to hear him tell you some things about you that you may not like to hear. If it’s mean, then let him know it’s not helpful if not constructive.  Try not to make excuses or argue him out of his feelings.
  10. Time’s up!  Thank him for spending this time with you and how much it means to you, tell him you love him, repeat any agreements you’ve reached, topics that need more discussion, and state that you’d like to schedule a regular “date” to talk (once a week is best.  Resist the urge to skip these “appointments,” which is easy to do when things seem better, or when life gets hectic).  And then, tell him you would like to hug him, and hold that hug, mean that hug, for at least 20 seconds.

Image result for couple communication quotesRemember, this may start out with baby steps. It may get frustrating, but keep telling yourself this is a process, you may be rebuilding from a lot of devastation.  It may take a while for him to lose suspicions that you don’t have a selfish agenda.  He may not be used to your kind and caring side (or remember it? yeah, ouch!).  He may be reluctant and surly at first and really make you mad.  Commit yourself to dredge up all your patience and love and give this a chance.  There may have been some deep hurts for both of you that had been buried and festering for a while.

Changes can happen with patience and love.  There are men (and women) who can really resist change or admit there are problems.  Each person wants to know “what’s in it for me.”  Try to change this dynamic to “what can I do to make my partner happier?”  Trust me, if anything is going to change for the better, this is important, almost a non-negotiable.

Image result for couple communication quotes

Posted in On Marriage | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Sex After Fifty

Many of my recent posts have been general statements on the world around me.  It’s been a while since I’ve spoken with the “wife voice.”Image result for sex after 50

Sex after fifty.  How’s that going for you?

What about sex UNDER fifty?

Oh my, I hear you.  It’s really such a mixed bag!  Women in their 50s and over (and UNDER!!), especially those who are in, or have experienced menopause, have many reasons to put sex on the bottom of their to-do lists.  Some of us can identify with the full range of views on this topic–in the space of 24 hours!   Trust me, I’ve experienced  (almost) all them all, and in great honesty, many came well before 50)!  And it’s not always about us ladies.

Done:  I’ve given up.  Done. Over.  Shop is closed.  It was nice while it lasted but it’s over.

Relieved: I never liked sex, always was a chore, it did nothing for me, I’m so glad that’s over with.

Charity Sex: If I must do it to make him happy, I’ll go along.  But I’ll sure as heck pretend to be asleep a lot.

Not Sure:  Sex isn’t as fun anymore, and maybe I can just learn to live without it if it’s going to be this difficult.  I sure hope he can live without it (not likely, ladies).

This is really sad (but I’m not sure I care):  I know that I love my husband, and there was a time when we had good if not great sex.  It’s just so different now.  I’m not turned on by him. I can’t get aroused.  He can’t get it up (then our negative head talk ensues: I can’t blame him, I’m not longer sexy, my body has taken a major hit, I’m old).  It takes more work, more effort, more frustration.  Maybe we both need to get some new moves on, some new attitudes towards sex, but getting a good night’s sleep sometimes seems better than sex.

I’ve only just begun:  My inhibitions about sex aren’t what they used to be!  The kids are gone!  The fear of pregnancy is over. We are rediscovering each other and enjoying this!  We’ve always liked sex, but rediscovering it is great!

Better than ever (or renewal): The above, and I almost want it more than before!!  Wow, Image result for better sex after 50this is great!  I had no idea we could try something wild and crazy and new!  We welcome this challenge to find new and different ways to enjoy each other. Being naughty is fun.  I never knew that it felt so good to…

What’s Changed? I’m not sure what you’re talking about… (if you’re in this category, you may not need to read further… lucky you!)

Wherever you find yourself (today, or yesterday), just know this: if you are married, sexual union is a sort of necessary glue for other parts of your marriage.  It keeps you bonded and connected.  There may not be the same drive to find multiple climaxes anymore, but the physical union is powerful and healing.  Chances are, if you are having regular enjoyable sex, you are arguing less, and in a better mood and state of mind about your mate.  That said ladies, here are some of the facts about our post menopausal bodies:

Bye Bye Hormones: For most women, 50s mark the end of ovulation, when your body stops making all of those juicy hormones it used to.  The hormones kept things not only ready to make and grow a baby and have a monthly cycle, but had you physically desiring, wanting, and perpetually prepared to do the deed that leads to procreation.  This includes making you ready for sex, namely keeping things slippery and supple and tight and tingly and aroused.  When the hormones stop producing, all that gear undergoes a change called “atrophy” (officially one of my least favorite words or concepts when it comes to my vagina, let alone my skeleton or joints).  Crudely put, we do start to “shrivel and dry up,” not a very sexy image.  Hard to accept our bodies were made to wear out.

[A quick word about hormone replacement, “natural” or “synthetic:” while there may be some temporary relief to be had, the longer-term side affects and dangers are real.  After two years on Hormone Replacement Therapy, I began to have very suspicious changes in breast tissue, a few biopsies and enough of a scare to put me off oral hormones.  My experience wasn’t unique. Suppository hormones seemed minimally helpful. Be well informed and don’t always trust doctors who are quick to put you on HRT]

Otherwise, things about our bodies begin to change, grow looser, and less taut.  Those breasts aren’t riding so high, that tummy that got stretched by babies won’t shrink back completely, and curves get droopier.  Skin is less smooth and tight. Believe it or not, “that pleasurable “wow spot” in your 20s and 30s may have shifted too (i.e., clit and G-spots–a new road map must be explored)! Lots of handling and rubbing of the delicate and thinning tissue of our vulvas and vaginas can be unpleasant or downright painful, without the right amount of preparation, lube, (tongue), and build up.

As if all of this physical stuff isn’t enough to depress us completely, our flagging hormones just don’t work as well to bring on lots of “instant” sexual arousal or gratification.  We can get moody, uncomfortable, and yes, bitchy.  Oh, the sexual Image result for sex after 50gratification can still be had, it’s just sometimes harder to find it, drag it out, and get it working effectively.  In terms of turn-on, it’s been said men are like light bulbs and women are like slow cookers. After 50, you might as well dial that slow cooker down to low. It’s a car that needs a lot of warming up before it’s ready to run, and zero to 60 takes isn’t happening in minutes.  In my twenties I could climax with the vibrations of the car and the seam of my jeans in just the right place.  Quickies were fun.  Now an orgasm is often MIA even with the most assiduous attentions to the area. And at times, we frankly just want to give up, get it over with, move on and hopefully forget about this sad state of our changing sexuality.

What to do?

You change your ways and adapt!  This sex thing has shifted and changed in this new chapter of your life, and it requires some special supports and attentions.  This is nothing to be embarrassed by or ashamed of.  If I have a headache and I want to feel better, I take a pill.  If I have itchy dry skin on my hands, I lotion up. If I have sore muscles, I have a relaxing bath or massage (with oil!).  If a man can’t get an erection, he can take a pill.  If my vagina is dry, I use lubrication (lots!).  If my climax doesn’t come as it used to, I might try a toy like a vibrator (here’s the deal on the vibrator, and other sexual toys: your vagina was designed to take a “beating” when you were younger, including popping out babies; as we age this is not so much the case.  Prolonged manual stimulation in intimate areas can get downright painful and unpleasant.  Lots of lubrication and a good vibrator can fire up the blood flow to the vagina and clit in less time, and coax those climaxes along with less discomfort.  Your man’s parts like vibrators too!  Oh, and without a huge nag on the topic, health, good foods, and exercise go a long way to helping you feel positive about sex (truthfully, if you’re huffing and puffing trying to find your fun parts among folds and layers of fat, that’s not so sexy).

OK, you say you’re too embarrassed to make such purchases? 

Lubricants: Seriously, there are shelves full in your local grocery store and drug store of “personal lubricants!” Throw it on the checkout belt with your eggs and milk, no one cares.  Or, order online.  Plenty of info to Google on the subject (some are silicone-based and may interact with condoms or plastics; others are water-based; flavored ones generally are not good because these can cause unhealthy pH in vaginas; “stimulation” brands can actually cause an unpleasant burn for some (think Ben Gay). The best of all?  Image result for almond oilNatural oils such as coconut, sweet almond oil, jojoba, and even olive oil!  Mixed with certain PURE essential oils, there can be some delightful new avenues to explore; a recent find is a drop of pure food-grade essential oil of lavender on the clit, wowzer. Research “essential oils for sex” such as clary sage, jasmine, neroli, patchouli, rose, rosewood,  Idaho blue spruce, peppermint, sandalwood, vetiver, ylang ylang.  I only recommend using the purest, Young Living, not the crap in the grocery store). No automatic alt text available.

Vibrators and Toys:  The availability on-line is endless and perhaps overwhelming, not only at Amazon.com but some drug stores.com as well; plain brown wrapper guaranteed.  Purchase of “toys” requires a little experimentation, but start with something small, basic, yet powerful, (i.e., Sensuelle Point 20 function, and most “bullets.” Higher-end tend to be better, like Lelo) and experiment from there. Or, be daring and visit a Lover’s Shop with your spouse and check out the merchandise!

Variety and Novelty: Another helpful aspect to keeping things sexually alive with your partner of 30, 40 and more years is experimentation and trying new things: it could be role play, locations other than your norm. reenactment of sexy movie or book scenes, a little light porn (if this is not morally offensive to you both; hubby is understandably uncomfortable with most porn, as the father of daughters and hating the exploitation of young women; I know there is “couples romance” out there that I find acceptable– consensual and more “instructional,” loving exchanges, and not exploitative. This is such a personal decision, and only you can decide).  Some like experimenting with aspects of bondage and domination.  Others may want to try even more kink in their bedroom games.  All that is important is that it is pleasurable to you both, and consensual.

Sex over 50 can be great, if you’re willing to invest a little effort!  Trust me, it’s worth it!

Posted in On Love, On Marriage | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Supporting Good Causes In Good Conscience

The world is a better place when people go outside their own personal needs, wants and desires and give to others.  The Golden Rule; to whom much has been given, much is expected; pay it forward; Karma: call it what you will.  It’s a beautiful thing when we give sacrificially to others.

Image result for volunteer

By the time most of us hit college or young adulthood, we have a sense of the injustices in the world we wanted to fight against, causes for which we wanted to stand.  Even selling Girl Scout Cookies and Boy Scout popcorn was a bid to support organizations that did good.  There were all the booster club fund raisers and auction dinners along the way.  There was little lack of “good causes” to support either with time, talents or treasures.

As our political and moral views solidified, some of these causes perhaps became more attractive or worthy of our support.  I am thrilled to see anyone become passionate about a cause outside themselves, designed to help others or a good cause.  Sadly, sometimes said causes tend to take on a political tinge.

Even for those who believe in the Biblical Tithe (giving 10% back to God/good causes), it can be downright confusing about exactly where to place your support.  SJ is an excellent steward of our money, and very generous.  In addition to our church pledges, we try to pick a few causes to which we focus annual contributions, and then there are all the others that just come along (SJ always has a pocket full of change and granola bars for people on the streets; that lovely instructor at the Y whose child was in the hospital? No hesitation to help).  We also have been actively involved in contributions of time and talent, usually in support of causes our kids participated in, our church, or social and humane causes we feel drawn to: women’s shelters, food pantries, homeless, Habitat, etc.

Image result for volunteerism

More complicating is when your children, you nieces, nephews, grandchildren, children of good friends begin coming to you asking to contribute to their cause.  There is so much out there, and a limited pool of money in our pockets.  Then there always is the question of how much of what I’m contributing actually supports the end beneficiary?  What are the long-term and lasting benefits? What about the overhead and administrative costs, such as your $1000 flight to Central America and your hotel (necessary components of your volunteer efforts in that clinic or well dig or vacation bible school)?

More and more, “contributions” are tricky.  How much am I contributing to your enjoyable trip, or your political and social cause which differs dramatically from my beliefs?

One of my nieces had a rough start in life, but after hard work and valiant efforts to get her act together, by the age of 30 seems to finally be on a solid path for success and happiness.  She completed her degree, she was employed, and was interested in furthering her education.  Financially her life was still a mess.  Still, she held the dream of home ownership.  As the time neared for her to put a deposit on her first home, she was short of funds.  My guess is that “savings” never was part of her budgeting process, but rather staying one step ahead of (most) bill collectors. Her lifestyle (as displayed on Face Book) included regular mani/pedis, smoking about a pack a day, multiple artistic tattoos, and two very large dogs who are her “babies.”  Finding herself without the necessary funds for the down payment, she set up a “Go Fund Me.”  I never heard the results of this, but I believe few considered her “cause for herself” part of their top 10 contributions list.  Through determination and some help from family, she was able to buy her house.  She continues to follow up on Facebook with the litany of homeowner (and dog owner) woes and expenses.  She has a good heart and has been helpful to other family members in need with her time.  In addition to the grand sent for her rehab expenses, I have sent her a few hundred here and there after recovery… but I pray that she can make the hard budgeting decisions to help her become financially self-supporting and keep her home–and not see herself as a charitable cause.

Image result for volunteerOur own children, and the children of friends and family, have had their share of fund raising.  Girl Scout cookies never really concerned me as imposing, as people get something they like in return for their support.  However there are those “Church Mission Trips,” which while noble, essentially turn out to be youth spring breaks in a third world country, doing crafts and singing songs for Jesus, perhaps using a shovel or laying a brick.  As a Christian I can believe that God uses all this for good… however I’m not blind to the fact that most of the “good” is accruing in the hearts of the youth on these trips, helping them to have more open eyes to the poverty and needs in the world outside their latest iPhone, designer purses, and cool cars.  Even in Adult Mission trips (of which I’ve been part), I’m always struck a little by the “missionary-tourism” phenomenon, and often do calculations in my head about how the dollars I put towards my time there might have been better used in other ways than funding my trip)

[As an aside, “Missionary-Tourism” is a big business these days: people feel good about traveling abroad to “volunteer,” but often the good done is negligible. I’ve been on far too many of these trips where some individuals sit in the shade observing the work being Image result for missionary tourismdone, fanning themselves, sipping from their fancy water bottles, and complaining about the primitive conditions, rather than rolling up their sleeves and getting dirty and hot and inconvenienced].

As a family, we resisted going to friends asking for sponsorships or support, we remained self-funding.  We didn’t think it right to ask for money for ourselves or our kids’ pursuits (as our kids have become adults, we leave it up to them where to solicit donations; however we find they avoid going to their parents’ friends, with whom they have limited personal contact).  For my own Mission trips, I self-funded or offered services for donations.  We knew the kids of our friends’ were also funding causes/trips/booster clubs.  An undeniable element of youth and young adult “good causes” is the opportunity for a great personal experience, and perhaps a little fun.  “Fun” seems to be a necessary “carrot” in the equation of the youth (and adult) voluntary experience, and on a limited basis we as parents we were willing to fund this portion of our own kids’ educational and fun experiences (not feeling it right to ask others to support this).  Sell those GS cookies, and raise funds for a troop trip to the Caribbean (where in addition to volunteering at the local orphanage, you’ll also go to the beach and snorkeling).  Raise funds for juvenile diabetes and be part of a fun dance party marathon.  Bike for the cause, and enjoy it.  All wonderful experiences. And of course, there’s the “academic capitalism meets volunteer work issue.” In a bid to encourage good works and voluntarism, academia also wants you to build your voluntarism record, and hey, on a brand new resume, it just looks good!  How Image result for volunteerism fakemany “Volunteer Hours” sheets have I initialed for surly youth who begrudgingly volunteered at our event, because they “needed their hours?”  There were just as many I was glad to sign off on, because the spirit of giving and voluntarism was obvious.

As my nieces and nephews (either those by blood, or otherwise– I have lots of “honorary” nieces and nephews) come into their majority, many have found their causes.  Many truly have a heart to do good and to serve.  I love this, am so proud of them, and I want to support and reward their spirit of voluntarism to the extent I can, financially and morally.

Yet here’s the rub.  You are 20, 21, 22 years of age.  Maybe you want to eat, run, dance, Related imagewalk or bike for a great cause like cancer or literacy.  God Bless you!  You are also generally very passionate about what you believe, and you write about it on Facebook, Instagram, and in your blogs (and even if I’m not your friend, I can see these).  You hold strong political beliefs, and perhaps in your zeal you become a little judgmental or insulting to those who don’t share your beliefs.  You hold strong religious (or anti-religion), social and political beliefs, and challenge (or judge) those who differ, or seem to differ. You have a tendency (in your youth and inexperience) to over-generalize, over-react, speak quickly, lump people into groups based on how they believe or vote, and insult.  You want to fight against childhood cancer (wonderful), but in your next post state that anyone against Planned Parenthood abortions or pro-choice is evil.  And I totally forgive this, because I know this to be part of the growth experience, the struggle to state your beliefs in a factual, balanced and respectful way, without insulting or offending.  I also know many of your beliefs will evolve as you grow in experiences and wisdom.  I will always love you, and your spirit to do good. Image result for write check for charity

Yet, you’ve left me with a conundrum.  I was delighted to write a check to you in celebration of your graduation, or buy you a wedding or shower gift to celebrate that wonderful life event.  I know maybe it wasn’t a lot, but I was proud of you, I love you, and wanted to congratulate your accomplishment.  You could use that check any way you wanted, even for your charity of choice.  There have been about 30 graduation checks over the past decade,  6 or 7 weddings, several wedding, baby showers and baby gifts, and more to come, easily $3,000; that is how many young people I truly care about.  But now you’ve made up your mind about your beliefs, and sometimes you publicly and strongly state things or support things that do not line up with my beliefs (and of course, this is your right).  You’ve not spoken with me in years, however Image result for write check for charityyou make a scourging  blanket statement about people in my religion, political party or social world-view, and it’s a little personal (and something tells me you wouldn’t say these things in a conversation with me, you are that polite).  If you feel so negatively about some of my associations, should I contribute to your (often well-meaning) causes?  Christian thought would tell me to turn the other cheek at your insults, which I do. Yet, does that involve pulling out my checkbook because I forgive your insults?

I’m sure most of you would say “no, if you can’t support my beliefs, then I don’t want you to support me.”  I just hope you understand that even though our beliefs differ, I still love you, care about you, and pray for/support your success and happiness.

Posted in On Life in General, On Parenting | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dear 21 Year Old Daughter

Dear 21 year old daughter:

Don’t be in a hurry to marry.  Just because a lot of girls around you are graduating with Related imagetheir MRS and engagement rings, doesn’t mean it’s what you need to do.  Just because they have beautiful weddings, and adoring, dreamy husbands doesn’t mean that it’s your timing. Just because you hold the sweet little babies of your young-20s friends doesn’t mean you need a baby now.  I know you have sought God’s will on this, as you do everything else in your life.  But 21 is young.

That said, I get it.  You’re in love and he’s the one.  I hope he is.  We like him.

Too often, we fear being one, and being all that we were created to be as an individual.  We feel joining with another is a mark of success, of having arrived.  That someone wants me.

At 19 I thought I wanted to marry a man.  I left college, I left my home, and I went to be with him.  In retrospect I know I was running away from frustrations and uncertainties in my life, and that he was easy to run to.  He made me feel special and loved.  I stand blessed that he was a good man, who sincerely cared for me, and fully intended to wed me… even though he was 18 years my senior. Yeah, talk about not very wise.

I know my parents had a hundred heart attacks over this.  I know I felt like such an adult, doing “adult things” and making “adult decisions.”  I know my friends all were confused and biting their tongues over this recklessness, this interruption to the normal course of a productive life.  I know that I listened to no one, and thought I had all the answers.  I know my 19-year old motives were pure, I truly loved him.  I know that the family priest/psychologist my parents insisted I talk to was sage, if not avant-guard in his advice: “she needs her freedom, let her go.”  And I know now that I had to go through all this before I truly could understand it was a mistake.  I thank God we never made it to marriage vows, or children. Even though I broke his heart and that of his family, I was the luckiest girl alive to have second chances to get my life back on track (albeit with many hiccups), finish my college degree, and go on to have a fabulous career and single life.

Image result for singlehoodWas my single life always happy and great?  Nope.  Sometimes it was really hard. And sometimes it was great. Watching some of my girlfriends marry straight out of college hadn’t really pressured me much.  I wanted to enjoy the things of life one doesn’t enjoy as a newlywed, namely world travel, and living independently on my own.  Though by the time I hit my mid-twenties singlehood was admittedly getting harder.  The beaus I’d spent my precious heart and time with weren’t turning out to be realistic life-partners as I’d dreamed.  Many were users, most were liars. When a real contender came into my life and stole my heart, I was deceived to think marriage was possible, only to learn years later I’d been strung along, lied to, and used. My heart felt utterly destroyed, and trust was decimated.  Trust in men, trust in myself to make good decisions. But years later, I could again count my blessings I didn’t marry that one, it would have been a disaster.  I actually understood that God had refined me and prepared me and opened my heart to meet your wonderful Dad.  Yet I wasn’t on the short-term training plan… I had to wait until 34.

Marriage isn’t easy.  You sensed this fact even with your Dad and I.  Starting out well into our 30s, it still took us nearly 2 decades to get things right in this marriage.  We were committed to our vows, and of course to our 3 precious children, with whom we were blessed by our third anniversary. Like it or not, children really can change the tenor of a marriage overnight, and it takes strong intentionality and hard work not to lose your husband-wife focus among the diapers, bottles, bills, whining, tantrums, discipline, preschool.  You can easily let the priority relationship fall to the side in exchange for the tyrannical duties of parenthood. Before you know it, you abandon first love, the foundational love of your marriage.   It is really hard work, we messed some things up to be sure, but we knew what many 20-somethings don’t know– a good spouse isn’t a ready-made commodity, he or she is formed, shaped, and refined through the fire of life, and the challenges of marriage. It requires a rare form of maturity to put aside your own ego and desires, and to think of something beyond yourself. To honor the covenant made. Especially when the love flames are nearly flickering out in the face of so many difficulties.Image result for singlehood

We only want the very best for you.  We want you to know and love yourself, and experience life to its fullest.  Perhaps you can do these things with this love of your life. He seems to be a good young man, who also has some growing to do.  But if he’s truly the one that God intended for you, he will let you be you before becoming a “we” for life.

Don’t be in a hurry sweetheart.  At twenty-one you have a lifetime ahead of you.  Our prayer for you is that you choose wisely.

Love,

Mom and Dad

Posted in On Marriage | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pro-Life or Pro-Choice?

I’m facing a bit of a personal moral crisis. Image result for pro life pro choice

And the biggest part of the crisis is that in this time in history, I can’t– or shouldn’t–say, write, or discuss anything that might offend someone, or limit someone’s legal rights.

Ah, that last one in particular.  That’s a thorny issue.  Shouldn’t I just accept that it’s someone’s legal right to make a choice about life?  That there is rhetoric that says it’s a woman’s choice to decide what to do with “her” body?  It’s THE LAW, after all.  As a Christian, I shouldn’t judge, right? And, because a very vocal number of people, some who identify as “feminists,” have come to terms that it is morally ok to end a life, I can’t be a dissenting voice, without offending.  I certainly wouldn’t be welcome at a Woman’s March for my views.

So usually I shut up.  I try not to make waves. I avoid the extremist views. Don’t want to be a judgmental, intolerant, hypocritical shrew.

Black lives matter.  Cops’ lives matter.  All lives matter.  Take away the guns and the crazy shooters and terrorists, lock them all up. We live in a society that decries genocides that still occur in the world: the disposal of human life that is inconvenient or unpleasant to Image result for pro life pro choiceanother group (think Holocaust; now Syria); the inhumane treatment of animals, and even those who ask us to not eat our animal friends; in a world where whales and birds and other endangered creatures lives are considered sacred (and no animals were harmed in the making of this film); in a world where we want to protect our environment from being snuffed out; where the abuse (or murder) of a days-old baby, an infant, a toddler is decried and we shout “lock those sick monsters away!”

Yet ending a life in utero, because inconvenient, is OK?  I continue marvel at how we have come to this point of regarding human life.

For me there is no mystery. No one can deny the science of how babies start; we all know the components necessary to create life.  And although test tubes and cloning and drugs have created life, the raw materials cannot be replicated in a lab, and still lie in the hands of a creator, whatever you call him/her/it.

Pure and simple, I believe that human life (all life, for that matter) begins at the moment of conception, a miraculous uniting of a sperm and an egg merging their DNA to create a new life, a human being.  It’s a human being, from the zygote, the first split in cells, to the heartbeats we saw on the sonogram of  our 7-week twins (the size of a blueberry), to a

10 weeks

distinguishable human form at 10 weeks, the baby you feel kick at 20 weeks (a point at which life can be sustained outside the womb), all the way up until birth. In Spanish, “child birth” is called “Dar la Luz.” to give light.  Our infants, from the light of their birth well into their preschool days, cannot survive without someone nurturing them, seeing to their needs and growth.  So even the argument that a fetus could not survived outside the womb seems ingenious.  And you may say, that’s what YOU believe.

 

But then let me ask,  from an entirely scientific base, what is not true about the paragraph above?  How can we debate “levels of life?”  It is, or it is not, life.

Then there is “the biblical” argument.  I’ve heard it said, “abortion is never addressed in the Bible.”  I consider that a spurious argument.  The commandment says “Thou shalt not kill.”  Jeremiah 1:5 tells us that God knows us before He forms us in the womb. Psalm 139:13-16 speaks of God’s active role in our creation and formation in the womb. Exodus 21:22-25 prescribes the same penalty—death—for someone who causes the death of a baby in the womb as for someone who commits murder. This clearly indicates that God considers a baby in the womb to be as human as a full-grown adult. For the Christian (and observant Jews; Islamic viewpoints vary but most uphold the Qur’an’s view that life as sacred and condemns killing), abortion is not a matter of a woman’s right to choose. It is a matter of the life or death of a human being made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-279:6).

I want you to have rights, to have choices.  These would include making choices about sexual behavior in keeping with the responsibilities you can accept in your life. Sex without proper protection is like jumping from a plane without a parachute.   Most would argue abstinence is unreasonable and inconvenient.  There is birth control– really, really good forms of birth control.  Like 99.8% effective. And while I don’t advocate any of these should be free… I do believe they should be priced affordably and easy to access.  I believe that all choices to contraception, even abstinence, should be taught to young people.  Ideally, teach it in your homes to your children.

I’d just like to give you a better choice than to have a living human ripped from your body.

As for special cases: I’ve never faced an “unwanted pregnancy.”  Each of my children’s conceptions were met with utter joy.  I’ve never “technically” been raped (although date rape really should count, regardless if I was on birth control).  During a time in my life when I didn’t want to get pregnant, I made sure I took measures.  There were slight complications in my pregnancies, but as having a child with a disability would not have led to a decision to terminate, we did not do any testing.  I imagine an “unwanted pregnancy” is a very sad state of affairs.  And cases of rape, incest or risk to mother’s life (1/10th  of 1 percent)  represent under 5 percent.  No child deserves to come into this world “unwanted.”  But no child deserves purposeful death.

I wouldn’t want to “force” anyone to become a parent if they don’t want to be.  The fact is, there are thousands of parents out there seeking adoptions.  People who would love a baby you might want to throw away.  There are organizations and churches who will help you through your pregnancy with housing, support, jobs, health care, etc.  Just Google “Pregnant?  Need Help?” and dozens of options pop up.  Yes, there may be a 9-month inconvenience to you.

But it’s an inconvenience that gives life.

Will Roe v Wade (the law that made abortion legal) ever be overturned?  I seriously doubt it.  “For the time will (has) come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”March for Life

So on the 44th anniversary of that landmark decision, I have a choice.  I can choose to be politically correct and say and do nothing.  I can pray.  Or I can invest my efforts in ways to make abortion a last option.  I can give my support to the  March for Life tomorrow, but I truly need to do more than just march.

I regret if I’ve run afoul of anyone’s views on this topic.  I regret if I offended.  Some of you may unfollow me at this, and I understand.  I certainly can’t tell you what to do or believe.  Despite what I believe, you will probably have a choice over your body, even if it involves the difficult decision to end a pregnancy.  But you might want to consider another point of view.  Trust me, I’ve heard the Pro Choice view; I believe it gets very good press.  And I’ve heard Pro Life views, some very harsh and intolerant.  When we get militant about a view, we get intolerant about people, about lives.

This I know for certain.  According to God, nothing is unforgivable if you ask for forgiveness.  Of course there may be consequences, but forgiveness for bad decisions is offered.

This is a video link to a young woman who speaks on the Pro Life issue from the point of view of a survivor, whose own abortion didn’t work.  It is a strong Christian testimony, and it is long.  But it is very powerful.  I encourage you to watch.

Posted in On Spiritual | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

I’m Praying For You…

Image result for pray in secret

I’m Praying for You…

Today I learned a little lesson.

Telling a known non-believer “I’m praying for you,” no matter how sweetly or sincerely, is insulting.

What?  How could they be insulted?  Aren’t we doing a “nice thing?” 

“Nice” in whose opinion?

A well-meaning acquaintance has taken to posting daily on Facebook about the minutiae of her life.  It’s her version of blogging.  Her 827 friends see her posts, and a good half dozen or so comment with encouragement or support. Just enough approbation to keep her writing.   A big theme in most of her closing statement is to be kind to others. Sometimes in the process she does tend to tout her own horn about how kind and wonderful she is.  Most, like me, find ourselves cringing a little at the well-meaning but sometimes self-serving or crossing-the-line commentaries, with undercurrents of not-Image result for praying for youso-kind statements.  Once, she posted a fervent “prayer request” for a “dear friend” battling a deadly cancer, who would remain nameless, who had exactly 2 children in grades 3 and 5, and a husband involved in xyz at church– oh, she was truly “in the know.”  By the time she was done describing the family, few people had a question who she was talking about. The father and mother in this family were very private, and had been seeking to protect their young children from the details of the sad news.  When gently told of the family’s desire for privacy, and the unintentional backlash of her descriptive “prayer request,” my Facebook Prayer Warrior was crushed that her motives could be suspect or criticized.

(In the south, a close insincere second to “I’m praying for you” is the very passive aggressive, “Bless her heart, but…” which is thought to negate the hateful or gossipy nature of whatever you say next).

Sigh… She’s done it again.  My acquaintance identifies as Christian.  She is clear about how her church and Christian values are important to her.  She is usually a very giving and loving person.  She makes herculean efforts to involve her grandchildren in church, despite their parents’ non-religious leanings.  I don’t blame her for trying, as long as it’s Image result for passive aggressive prayerhonest and with their consent.  But then she posts her efforts to all her 800+ friends, and tags the grandchildren’s parents.  Today in her daily FB “blog” she made a strong political commentary akin to “get over it and let’s all move on…” and then went on in the same post to ask for prayers for an upcoming family wedding, indicating that it sure doesn’t hurt to ask for God’s blessing to strengthen this couple’s marriage.  Oh, and she tagged the bride and groom.  Who, apparently took issue with not only being tagged, but her political statement AND her call for prayer for them.  The response was terse and straightforward from the liberal, Anti-Trump, non-religious, and “we-see-through-you” couple. “We prefer if people NOT pray but instead take action against this evil administration, and support our marriage with gifts to ACLU… etc.”  It was one of the most high-brow, socially conscious slap downs I think I’ve ever seen.

Can you say strike three, you’re out?  She’s batting zero on the Christian witness averages.

Image result for praying for youI know my FB-blogging friend will be devastated.  I know that she’ll be angry and remorseful at the wedge that’s now been (publically) driven between her and a family member; she’ll be wounded that her motives were suspect or seen as less than Christian.  She’ll never see how she jabbed the red-hot poker of “prayer” at an angry, agnostic, and liberal tiger, and possibly ruined any chance for reconciliation, much less relationship.

If I could, I’d want to give her advice.  And in so doing, I’d be giving myself the same advice. No doubt I’ve hurled a few of these “I’ll pray for you” bombs myself.

As a Christian, prayer is what we DO.  We do it anytime and any way we want to… but if we truly are following Christ’s example, we don’t use it as a weapon or a club.  OK, yes, scripture does tell us that the Word of God is our Sword in the assorted armor of God, to be used to stand firm, to protect us against attacks, against evil–Ephesians 6).  It’s sharper than any double-edged sword, because we can use it in our own lives to cut through the crap and judge the thoughts and attitudes of OUR hearts (Hebrews 4).  We don’t use weapons to defend, win, or gain people to Christ (sorry, Crusaders), we can only offer them the weapons to use in their own defense.

The coolest thing about prayer though, is that we may do it secretly.

PRAY IN SECRET. 

Our prayers aren’t heard by God in accordance to their volume, their length,  their floweryImage result for pray in secret phrases, or how many likes on Facebook.  It’s all in the motives. Sometimes we don’t know how to pray, and God gives us a Spirit who can help us, even using groans that words cannot express (this latest election has elicited quite a few groaning prayers).  We can think prayer.  And, there are certainly times when we’re also called to pray together.  Not AT.  Not publically FOR unwilling prayees.

The Bible tells us that Jesus prayed in private frequently.  He told his disciples, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners (and on Face Book, and in Sunday School “prayer requests”) to be seen by others.  Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But Image result for pray in secretwhen you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.  Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Don’t get me wrong.  I strongly believe in the power of prayer.  I covet other’s prayers and feel blessed that people will pray for me.  I am happy and honored to pray for anyone who asks me, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop praying.  I believe that God outrageously loves us, and is in our corner, in spite of the evidence some want to use against this belief.  I am forever grateful for that gift my mother gave me from childhood, which has endured through many a faith crisis, multiple denominations, rejected dogmas, Bible Studies, disappointing Pastors and church leaders, insincere church people, and all manner of imperfect man-made religious junk.

Many is the time among fellow Christian believers that I’ve been asked to pray, or someone’s expressed concerns.  I’ve uttered the “I’ll be praying for you,” parting shot, and meant it in all sincerity.  Often I forget.  Lately, I’ve adopted a different response.  I asked the fellow-believing person permission, right there and then, in our one-on-one setting, if I could pray for them NOW.  I make it short and sweet, I acknowledge in my prayer that God knows the details, I affirm how much He loves my friend, and I ask that He bring my friend strength, resolution, and peace, within His Will. Thy will be done. Amen. Image result for praying for you

I’m praying for you could be the most insulting and loaded comment you could ever utter to someone, and especially a non-believer, and especially in this emotionally charged culture.  I’ve heard some feel it is very passive-aggressive, especially if that person has been clear about their non-belief.  And to ask others to publicly pray for someone, without the permission of the person, and perhaps in defiance of their views, well, that just about scrapes the bottom of the barrel.

Most of us really don’t mean anything bad by it, and most of you don’t take insult. We all mean well.  Well, most of us, maybe.

If you know me, and especially if I love you, I don’t even have to tell you that I pray for you–because that’s what I do for people I care about, secretly.  I just need to do a better job of it for the ones I don’t care so much for, the ones I disagree with.  I need to pray for everyone.

And it’s OK if you never know it.

Posted in On Spiritual | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments