Failure…

Failure is a funny word to me, because I truly believe that we rarely utterly fail at something.  Sometimes, it is simply a matter of perception.  Follow along with me for just a moment on that thought before we get into the meat of this topic.

Below is a series of photographs from a wedding, several years ago.  At the time, I owned my own confectionary.  This was not my first big event, but it was my first wedding.  The bride wanted a confection bar full of candies, sweets, and treats.  She didn’t want a traditional wedding cake at all.  We decided upon some cupcake towers and a small cake at the top, which was adorned with their wedding topper and serve for the “cake cutting” part of the reception.

What you see here is a very well executed plan, right?  Wrong.  I had a MAJOR failure.  I promised her Jolly Rancher Cotton Candy.  I woke up that morning to make the fresh cotton candy, only to find that there was just too much humidity in air.  The cotton candy, which I had made dozens of times before, was melting before I could even bag it.  So, I bought some cotton candy that was pre-made and portioned it out into the bags.

The bride was happy, there were no gaping holes in the table set up, and there was not a single bag of cotton candy left over.

I failed.  Yes, it was due to circumstances outside of my control… but I still failed to deliver what I promised.  Even if, ultimately, I was really the only one who knew about the failure.

 

The next large event I catered was for a fundraiser.  I met with the planning team and they presented an adorable center piece concept.  They brought out super cute little tiered dessert stands. The plan was to have the stand filled with cupcakes. There would be a giant cupcake “topper”.  The small cupcakes were part of the dessert for the evening.  They would have table drawings for the centerpiece (inclusive of the giant cupcake topper, plus an additional 1 dozen mini cupcakes).  In addition they wanted gift bags for the VIP sponsor tables.  I was super excited to get started.  I measured out the centerpiece they provided to determine the number of cupcakes that it would hold.  Sent them a quote.  The order was set.

When I arrived the morning of the event to set up, to my shock… the tiered center pieces had be replaced.  They made the decision to go with something nicer, which was the right decision.  However, they neglected to inform me of the change.  These new centerpieces were MUCH larger.  Almost twice the width on every tier.  I placed the topper, the dozen mini cupcakes, and it was SPARSE.  I flagged down the coordinator, explained the problem, and she made the decision we would forgo the dozen cupcakes as part of the table prize and instead use them to fill up the tiers.

The following Monday, I received an email from the main chairperson.  She wanted a partial refund because I failed to produce the dozen cupcakes per table for the prize.  She was never informed by the coordinator, and thought I had shorted their order.  I explained what happened, who authorized the decision to use them, and apologize profusely.   In her response, she was very kind and canceled the request for the refund.  However, I never received another order from her or their organization again.

In this case there was a perception that I failed.  I knew that I hadn’t, and that I met my obligations.  However, based on what she could see… the chairperson perceived that I failed to come through.

This weekend I was reading an blog piece in which the author was brutally raw about her feelings, as she declared that Jesus had failed her family that year.  I was really stumped by those words. Jesus… who is perfect, flawless, dependable, truth… failed you?  I couldn’t understand it.  It didn’t seem possible.

In all the years of unanswered prayers, I’ve never felt like Jesus let me down.  Not once.  I can’t think of a time where I looked up to the heavens and declared “Lord, you really let me down this time.  I needed you to come through.”  I was struggling with every single time her words “Jesus failed me” flew past my eyes.  Yet, I not offended … angry … or hollering out “heretic”.

Perhaps, that is because in all of those times where things didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to… I blamed myself.  I told myself that the reason my prayer wasn’t answered or the Lord didn’t show up was because I failed Him.  I feel like I fail God daily.  I never feel good enough.  I question why in the world He would want to use me in ministry.

What I realized was that how we see things was very different.  I was seeing failure in the way I described the first scenario.  In some way, I failed to deliver on my end of the bargain… even if I did my best.  Even if I made up for it in someway.  Even if no one in the world knew or cared about it.  I knew.  I failed.  My focus was there on that place where I failed, versus the ways that I succeeded.

The woman who wrote the blog piece was more akin to my second example.  She was the chairperson who had expectations on how things were going to turn out.  She brought in the right people, and through no fault of her own in that scenario, something wasn’t right.  She turned to the person she trusted to come through, and she said “you failed me”.

You see, she ascertained that failure based on the limited amount of information she had.  She didn’t know that the centerpieces were different sizes, or that it would make a difference in the end product presentation.  She didn’t know that I was never informed of the change.  She wasn’t brought into the decision making being done on the spot to accommodate the changes, nor filled in after the fact of what happened & why.

When the Lord is working out things for us, we are not always clued in to what is going on in the background.  We can’t always see the people or situations that the Lord is coordinating into just the right places, at just the right times.  In fact, sometimes we never will.  We may never see those fingerprints where God was moving mountains and mustard seeds.  So, when the end product (or process) isn’t what we expected… we may feel like God failed us.  He didn’t come through.

On the other hand, we can become so focused on all of the areas where we ARE messing up… that we think we have failed God to the point He is ignoring us.  We may think He is deliberately keeping blessing from us.  We may even think that he is disciplining us.

In the first case, we are so focused on our perception of the situational outcome that we can’t see those who kept their word and did their part.  We don’t appreciate the people who were pressed into hard decisions.  We lose the ability to give people the benefit of the doubt.  We make assumptions, assign unjust blame.  Our vision becomes clouded to the work God is doing, the blessings that are coming, the people who did care, and the hundreds of little ways God came through with something BETTER.  Jesus never fails us, we just perceive that He did because we didn’t get the outcome we desired.

Or, we become so focused on how wrong and sinful we are.  We become so inwardly focused that we beat ourselves up, disqualify ourselves, and stamp FAILURE on our foreheads.  We make vows to never try again, step away from commitments or ministry work, and wallow in how terrible we think we are.  We put up our hands to the Lord, shouting STOP… I can’t be used.  I’m a failure, not Jesus.

Christ died because we are failures at keeping God’s statutes and commands.  Throughout the Old Testament, on a repetitive cycle…   God would move, the people would celebrate, the people would forget, the people would fall & cry out, and God would rescue.  By the time of the New Testament, when Jesus enters the arena… God’s ultimate plan of redemption for his people who just can’t keep it together on their own.  In her piece, she repeated a few times that she waited for Jesus to rescue her… and He didn’t.  I would contend… HE ALREADY DID, ON CALVARY.

And, in that moment we were given victory over sin and death.  We are not failures, but perfected in Him.  By His stripes we are healed.  We need to keep our eyes on Him, not ourselves.  Trusting His word, even when we don’t understand what is happening around us… or God seems quiet or far.

Then, I read the article a 2nd time.  Something else jumped out at me, and we are going to talk about that next time.

So… I saw Bad Moms, and I laughed.

In case you don’t have any clue what movie I am talking about, here is a promo shot:

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First, I’d like to admit right out of the gate I didn’t walk into this movie with naive expectations.  The trailers gave a pretty good indication that there would be some inappropriate humor.  Second, I am not planning on giving away any spoilers.  There were definitely some parts I thought the movie could have lived without, not only for the story line but even in the presentation.  Sometimes it could go too far.  Third, there were some parts of this that were REALLY unrealistic when you are talking about any group of moms.  Lastly, there were also a LOT of truths.

Overall, I laughed and I laughed hard.  At one point I laughed so hard (as I was taking a sip from my straw) that I pushed air through the straw, which caused a small tidal wave in my cup, and that resulted in my drink landing in my eyes.  Which just caused a whole other fit of laughter for myself and those sitting around me.  I laughed until I cried and my stomach hurt.  Yet, there were some moments that I nodded in solidarity.  There were moments that were uncomfortable.  And, yes… as I said before totally unnecessary.

What I want to write about (and I’m up for conversation too) is WHY a movie like this not only resonated with moms but was drawing us in like moths to a flame.

My first thought is probably the most obvious, there is an enormous amount of pressure on moms to be it all, do it all, and do so perfectly.  Whether it is the perfect birthday party, bento box lunches, or simply making it to every school and sport activity… we feel the pressure.  We notice so much of what is around us, like the mom who has the perfect hair and make up in the parent pick up line… when we were struggling to get out of the house with a bra under our pajama shirt.  We see the kids with the perfectly styled hair, accessories, and sparkling white sneakers…. and we just spent the last 40 minutes looking for eyeglasses or a belt.  Other moms dropping their kids off early, and we are 10 minutes late because we had to go back home and pick up the flute that was left behind… or because our darling child took 15 minutes to brush her teeth.

How do these moms do it?  We cast shade in their direction, but really we are asking ourselves… why can’t I do it?

I think there are a number of moms who have run the scenario through their head of just saying no.  No to the requests by the husband, kids, school, coaches, etc.  An opportunity to just walk away from the pressure and enjoy life again.  To make the choice of not being the perfect mom anymore, and instead be the bad mom.

This brings me to my second thought, as you watch the trailers you see a group of women having fun. We are not talking bunko party fundraiser fun, but the kind of fun we had as teenagers  and young single adults.  The fun we had when we didn’t care what others thought, where it was ok to be silly, and there was an expected freedom in the general knowledge we were going to make mistakes and bad choices.  It takes us back to a time when we didn’t have to be an adult, and could just let loose and be free.

With motherhood came some sort of unwritten code of conduct, that we couldn’t be silly anymore.  We began to take everything too seriously, including ourselves.  Let’s face it, books and the advice of television “experts” reinforced this.  Reminding us over and over again that it was time to grow up, put away childish things, and get our heads out of the clouds.  As we did this, many of us sent fun sailing away for good.  We stopped smiling, we stopped laughing, and we stopped being silly.

The movie Bad Moms called out to that free spirit inside of us, that desperately wanted to laugh… and laugh hard.  So, it pulls out all the stops.  The women let loose in a way we couldn’t, and we live vicariously through them.  They say the things that roll through our minds & do the things we secretly wished we could.  (Ok, maybe not all of the things they say and do, but you get the point).

I also believe this appeals to Christian women so deeply because of the bar that is set for our expected behavior.  If other moms are feeling the pressure to be perfect in their every day life, Christian moms understand the additional expectations put on the Christian mom.  To have perfect children that love Jesus, quote the bible, volunteer with the elderly, and gladly donate all their birthday money to the missions fund.  To be women who are serious about the study of the Lord, leading small groups, inviting women over to mentor and pray together, to dress in simple clothes, and be ever diligent in our choices of entertainment.  There is a pressure that all of our time should be so seriously focused on Christ, that we can’t let loose and laugh until our sides hurt.

Confession… I saw the movie on opening night.  It’s taken me almost a month to admit I saw it, because frankly… I expected to be judged for it.  I was worried about what my church friends, my readers that look to me for wisdom, the women or leaders who are reading through my blog trying to decide if I would be the right speaker for their next women’s event… what would these people think of me?

I learned something from the movie though… my eyes were opened to how long it had been since I had laughed so much and so hard.  I realized how seriously I take myself and made the decision not to.  I embraced that silliness is okay and even healthy for my kids to see.  I made the decision that I wanted to laugh more, but with those whom I am the closest to… not a theater full of strangers.  I want that girl posse who has my back, in the most biblical way possible… and who will be silly with me.  Women who know how to laugh, smile, and stop trying to be something that is impossible to attain… perfect.

All of those parts of the movie that I thought were unnecessary, they don’t have to be part of my life.  But the good stuff… I welcome it.  We are all GOOD MOMS despite our imperfections and the times we muck things up… because we are LOVING MOMS.  In the end that is what matters.  The Lord didn’t call us to a life of misery, but of fulfillment and joy as mothers… and laughter.  So much laughter.

Avert Your Eyes

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Women are a funny creation, I’d love to have a one on one conversation with the Creator of the World about how women work.  I want to know how much of our way of thinking, behavior, etc is just “how we are wired” and how much is a result of the fall.  How emotional did God really want for us to be?  How complicated were we intended to be?  When woman first bit that piece of fruit, why is it that her mind became a pile of yarn balls all unraveled and going in so many directions at once?  Why did men get the capacity to compartmentalize things and function so differently with thought and deed?  We both ate of the tree of knowledge, yet our brains work so entirely differently.  Why?

It is a mystery.

Interestingly enough, what also happened after woman bit that apple… she saw herself.  She felt shame and guilt.  And, she hid from God.  Until that moment, the Lord had blinders on her eyes.  She saw Him, she saw Adam, she knew her God given task and purpose.  When she bit of the apple, those blinders fell off.   “What if” entered the world.  “What if God didn’t say ….”.  “What if I take a bite…”.  “What if I didn’t hear God correctly…”.

What if.

Throughout the scriptures there are cries out to God to be seen.  See me, search me, do not cast your face from me, see your people, hear your people, help your people…

Eve hid from God.  Eve said… do not see me.  Do not find me.  Do not cast your gaze upon me.  Do not search me.   She didn’t want to be found in her shame and her guilt.

Avert your eyes.

But the Lord looked for them, he sought them out in their shame, held them accountable, and then as He always does… he made a way out.

I’ve known so many women who want to be seen.  They want their spouses to see them, instead of take them for granted.  They want their children to see them,  and consider them worthy of praise.  They want their parent to see them and apologize for past hurts.  They want their boss to see them and recognize their efforts.  They want their church to see them and welcome their gifts.  They want world to see them and say you add value and are worthy to know.

And yet, some of these same women will hide from those who see too much.   When a spouse gets too close, and they feel vulnerable… they push him away.  When the children begin to see through her perfect mom facade, she builds up taller walls and come up with new covers to her sin.  A parent who desires to fix the past will be kept at arms reach because of fear, we do not want to be hurt again.  Women don’t want their bosses to know how much they sacrificed for the job, because they fear it shows weakness vs. strength.  A woman  who wants the church to see her gift but hides the journey to faith that brought her there.  Women who want the world to see them, but only the parts they want to be seen.

Women are complicated creations.  By our design or as a result of our choices, we seem to have the ability to complicate our lives even more than they need to be.  We say we want authenticity in our friendships, but we do not want vulnerability.  We say that we want iron sharpens iron friendships, yet we do not understand that for iron to be strengthened it’s weaknesses must be exposed.  We would rather our friends look up at us as a model of inspiration versus walk with us through our valleys.  We put on a show, get a circle of friends, build relationships… always keeping our arms stretched out so that no one can get too close.

From a distance our cracks and fractures are not as noticeable.  From a distance we can put on a show and no one can see us reading from the cue cards.  From a distance our grand actions are easily seen but our slight of hand goes unnoticed.  From a distance we look holy and righteous, masking our sin and deprivation.  From a distance we appear to have it all together, all of the right answers, the perfect family… no one can see the brokenness behind our closed doors.

Social media has made the perfect playground for superficial relationships, because we can connect with hundreds and thousands of people… posting our perfectly thought out words, edited photographs, and stories spun to make our lives look like a highlight reel of perfection.  When those people began to infiltrate our real lives, and see how we really live… that facade can only last so long.  When they get too close and begin to the see the truth, we cut them out and replace them with someone new.  Cycling our “friends” in and out of our lives to protect the image we have created for ourselves.

We tackle authenticity from a place of mentor to mentee versus a mutual relationship of accountability.  We want others to be authentic with us, so that we can use our gifts, talents, knowledge, wisdom, et’al to help them.   Yet we dare not expose the thorns in our sides, the planks in our eyes, and our sin to those whom we consider our closest friends.   When they come across them and call our attention to it, we are quick to dismiss it.  Quick to blame, and quick to create distance.  We speak truth in love, but I question how much love is really there.  We speak personal conviction as biblical mandate, standing on a soap box of righteousness that is filled with worms.  We are quick to label others sins and quantify them as more terrible than our own, so that when the time comes we can stop the friendship and feel no remorse.

Righteous indignation is easier than self retrospection.

So, we hide.  We hide from God under the guise that our sin is not as bad as others.  We tell ourselves that God is angrier about greater sins in the world, than this little thing I have done.  We hide from those who love us, because we fear that if they see us for who we really are they will leave… judge… or hold us accountable to change.  We hide from ourselves by focusing so much on how others have wronged or hurt us, that we can put our own sin on the back burner.

We want others to avert their eyes to us, while we look at them under a microscope.

Lord help us to be vulnerable with one another, to walk our roads not alone but in the company of our family of believers, let us not fear accountability, and help us to stop hiding from you.

Song of Songs – Talk About an Earworm!

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Yesterday evening, I completed Song of Songs.   Talk about an earworm!  I can’t get these words out of my mind.  Whew, that is some steamy stuff.  As Dr. Juli Slattery pointed out at an Authentic Intimacy event…. Proverbs 31 Woman has nothing on the Bride from Song of Songs!  This Shulammite Bride is a hot mama, who is hot for her hubby…. and vice versa.

These scriptures are beautifully written illustrations of their love, affection, devotion, and desire for each other.  It was also quite revealing to the fact that many of us as wives are no different than she is.  When we first meet “our man” we see all the dazzling things about him, and we fall head over heels.  Then, we get married and it’s exciting and new.  But there comes a point where we are just “too tired” and “too burdened” by our daily lives that we just can’t… we are not interested.  We send this man away, and unfortunately even if we recognize our mistake… it may be too late.  But not always… we can rekindle those feelings for him.  We can seek him, reconcile to him, and restore the relationship to what it once was… and even better.

Last week, in an entirely unplanned but related sermon topic, my Pastor said that when counseling couples… when he can get them to start talking about what first drew them to each other, he can see their body language change.  The folded arms will drop, the sour faces disappear, the distance between them will close, and they soften to each other.  However the point is not to restore the relationship to just before things went south.  Instead, it is to reconcile them both into a place where they want something even better.

I’ll be honest, there were definitely moments throughout the reading where I felt the sting of conviction.  I have had my moments where I turned my husband away.  Probably more than I realize, and without a doubt more than I’d like to admit.  If you asked us how many times, truthfully my husband’s account would stand more accurate than my own.  It is really easy to justify the why nots…. too tired from a long day, too stressed out from rearing the kids, etc.  Even the Shulammite Bride had her excuse, she had already gotten herself ready for bed.

This is not to say that there are not times that we legitimately have reason.  It is also not to say that this gives a man (even our husband) an excuse to not respect our wishes.  In Song of Solomon her hot hubby didn’t pressure her… or force himself on her.  He didn’t make her feel bad, or less than a woman for it.  Her regret for turning him away was from within her and not out of a sense of duty unfulfilled… but deep love for him.  She felt so bad, she went off to find him and was broken when she couldn’t.

I’ve felt that way before too.

What is interesting about this for me, is that when she does find him… it’s an immediate reconnection.  He doesn’t hold it against her, but instead affirms his love for her.

Now think about all of this in our intimate relationship with God.

We are drawn to Him.  We love Him.  We desire Him in our lives.  We boast to others about Him.

But do we not make excuses for why we couldn’t go to church, pray, or read His word?  Too busy?  Too tired?  It’s too late… or too early.  Not enough time?  Too many places to go?  Too many distractions to tend to?

Then, we recognize our mistake and we run after Him.  When we are reconciled to Him, God doesn’t hold it against us.  He welcomes us back into His arms and loves us. God is only as far away as we want Him to be.

#Write31Days – Post 3 – Tackling the Taboo

25questions5For too long we have avoided really talking about sex in the church.  And, I’m not talking about the youth group.  I am talking about a Sunday morning sermon (or series) that really dives into the topic.  It’s taboo. 

Some churches may find it to be inappropriate to talk about.  Or, that the people in their church do not need to address the subject.  They may even feel like it isn’t that big of a problem in the first place to spend time on the question.

Then we wonder why we have more people (not just teens) having sex without marriage.  We stand firm and address the topic of abortion, without ever addressing the subject that brings a person to the abortion clinic in the first place.  Sex.

In a time when we have children growing up in single parent homes…

In a time when films and television have stopped implying and now show sex scenes…

When songs on the radio have explicit lyrics and music videos are graphic…

When you can’t even pass through the check out line at the grocery store without knowing about other people’s sex lives…

In a time when we have immediate access to any type of pornography, at the click of a button…

IS IT NO WONDER THAT OUR COMMUNITY IS CONFUSED!

As a child of divorce, my mother has been single the majority of my life.  My grand parents were separated.  I literally had no example of what a solid Christian Marriage looked like.  I had no concept of what a healthy sex life looked like in the confines of that marriage.  It’s something that has had a direct impact on my own marriage.  I am navigating unfamiliar waters.  What I learned about marriage, was what I saw on TV from the old generation shows like Leave it to Beaver and The Cosby Show.  Ask yourself, for kids today… what do the TV shows and movies they watch tell them about the reality of a healthy sex life in the confines of marriage?   Because, I can assure you if they are not seeing it modeled in their home… movies and TV become their reference material.

In addition we spend so much time telling teens not to, shaming sex before marriage… that when they enter into marriage they have no clue what is permissible within their marriage.  We have presented a polarization of sex to our kids and young adults that is hard to navigate.  There is so much sexual dysfunction in our world, and in the church, that we don’t know where to even begin.  If our Pastors are not answering the questions, we turn to ….  ?

Authentic Intimacy  is a ministry that has answered the call.  With their previous publication they have stepped right into the ring with the subject others are trying avoid.  This week their newest book, 25 Questions You’re Afraid to Ask, releases and I’ve had the opportunity to get a sneak peak.

To book covers questions like:

Can I Be Single and Sexual?

Is It Wrong to Like Sex?

Why do Guys Care So Much About Sex?

How Do I Get Past My Shame?

It also addresses porn, masturbation, homosexuality, trust after betrayal, and so much more.  These are the questions that Dr. Juli Slattery gets asked the most often by women all over the world.  They are questions we all have or have had.

For those of us who are parents, this gives an insight into the questions that are rolling around the minds of our teens and young adults.  Questions they may be afraid to ask us, or we may be afaid to bring up.

With so much sexual dysfunction in the world, we can’t ignore the topic anymore.  We need to break down the walls, stop avoiding the subject, and really dig into what healthy sexuality is from a biblical perspective.

Today, author Dr. Juli’s podcast Java with Juli  has a great introduction to the what and why behind the book, and some other incentives you will not want to miss out on, just click the link below:

25 Questions Book with Dr. Juli Slattery

Authentic Intimacy will also be in Port Saint Lucie Florida, January 30th for a special one day conference!   Just click on the photo for more information!!!

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#25QuestionsBook – Chapter 3

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October 6th, Dr. Juli Slattery’s newest book 25 Questions You’re Afraid to Ask about Love, Sex and Intimacy will be available for sale.

We all have questions, especially Christians on what is and isn’t ok or permissible.  The church as a whole hasn’t done the best job in answering those questions.  Talking sex in the sanctuary is still taboo in many churches.

That doesn’t stop the questions from entering our minds.  The internet makes a tempting place then to look for the answers.  But, what does God’s Word say on the subject.  Dr. Juli Slattery dives right into the top 25 questions she gets asked and answers them from a biblical standpoint.

This book is written for the single and the married woman alike.  A safe place to get sound counsel on those questions you may just be afraid to ask.

I’ll be sharing more about this book in the coming days!

25 Questions About Sex – A Long Overdue Book.

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I am really, really excited about this book.

The subject of sex is still pretty taboo in most churches.  Sure, it might be addressed by the youth Pastor… who reminds our kids NOT to do it yet.  It may even be addressed occasionally during a Women’s Conference or brunch,  where we are reminded we shouldn’t use it as a weapon.  Or, we may be instructed on how to get our grove back after kids.

But, is that really all we need to know?

NO!

There is so very much more, but we might be afraid to ask our Pastors.

They may be intimidated (or embarrassed) to bring it up on their own.

This leaves women (who make up 55-65% of our church bodies) in the dark about what a healthy sexual relationship is like, within the confines of a godly marriage.

Dr. Juli Slattery is going to dig right into 25 Questions that may be hard to ask, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be talking about them.

I am excited to be a part of a team of women who are going to be exploring this book, sharing our thoughts about it, and launching this book into the hands of women across the globe.

So, check back in soon… as we start this journey together.

“Our sexual questions shouldn’t be relegated to dark rooms and lonely nights. They need to be spoken and explored, holding up the Word of God as the standard of truth.”

#25QuestionsBook

If you need an excuse to go toward the beach in January…..

If you need an excuse to head toward the warm waters and sunny beaches of South Florida….  or you are already there….

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To register, click the photo or HERE.

Pulling Back the Shades – What You Should Know

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Do you know that some of the strongest opponents against the 50 Shades of Grey books and movie are those who are part of the BDSM community?

That means, those who actually participate in this type of sex IN REAL LIFE… call the scenes from the book inaccurate, misinformed & dangerous – on a mental, emotional and physical level.

Why is this important?
Because many a Christian wife has justified reading the series or seeing the movie as a way to HELP her marriage.
Those within the community express valid concerns that this will NOT help your marriage, but in fact do a lot of harm.
Let’s remember that we are called to keep our marriage bed pure.  That doesn’t mean that we cannot have fun with our spouses, and enjoy a spiced up sex life.  However, our marriage bed is also be to a place of respect, safety & love.

PULLING BACK THE SHADES

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This month I got the opportunity to review a new book by Dannah Gresh & Dr. Juli Slattery called “Pulling Back the Shades“.  This book is written as a response to the popular 50 Shades of Grey series, and upcoming movie.  This will be different than my usual book review, a little more personal, and not in the format I usually do book reviews in.

Before I begin I would like the make 2 things very clear.

1) I have not read the 50 Shades series, but in my past I have read books of the same genre.

2) I am aware that some of my very own Christian & non-Christian friends have read the 50 Shades series, as well as other series from that genre.

Knowing all of this, I ask you to just keep reading.

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I can’t tell you how old I was exactly when I was first exposed to any type of pornography.  I can pin point it to my elementary years, I’d have to say it was third grade or even younger.  My father kept his collection of Playboy magazines in his living room.  When I say “collection”, I mean it.  It was a dedication shelf unit, of multiple shelves with stacks and stacks of magazines.  My father gave clear instructions to us that we were not to look at them, ever.  Which pretty much means, as some point we were curious enough to do so.  My father gave the classic “for the articles” excuse, and as photography was a hobby of his… I wouldn’t exactly say it surprised me that he would look at the pictures.  As a fan of art myself, from an early age, I had seen plenty of nudes in museums.  While I looked at some of the pages, I was not really impacted by what I saw.    Or, at least I didn’t think I was.

Fast forward a few years, and my mother would bring me with her to a friends house.  It was in their home, when I asked to use the restroom, that I would come across my first “Hustler” magazine.  Unlike my father’s Playboy magazines, these images were a lot more graphic.  I knew I shouldn’t be looking, yet I thumbed through the pages.

By high school I was reading books that were certainly not on the high school reading list, but recommended by some friends.  They would definitely fall into the realm of erotica, even back then.  Let’s be honest, erotica has been around for quite some time.  Just more hush hush, in the background conversation.

As time progressed, and movie and TV standards have loosened, there is hardly anyone I know that hasn’t seen a movie with some sort of graphic sex scene.  Long since have the days of suggested sex scenes passed, and very little is left to the imagination.  This isn’t just confined to mutual consensual sex scenes in movies, but also graphic and violent rape scenes.   And, now, with the release of these books and the upcoming movie… a darker side of sex is being brought to the forefront.  A side that combines violence and sex into a singular encounter, normalizing it, taking the taboo off of it and making it mainstream.

You can’t deny this, as of date statistics state that over 100 million women alone have read one or more of the 50 shades books.  And, there is very little difference between the % of Christians vs. non Christians who are reading it.

Over time, as I became a Christian, I began to find conviction about reading these books, watching these TV shows and movies.  It was easy to convince myself that you can flip past the pages or fast forward through these scenes and enjoy the rest of the material.  There is some naivety to that thought process though, as we have all learned at some point, or another, where that attempt failed.  Not to mention, leaving these tv shows sitting in your DVR is no different than leaving a romance novel (which is a tame erotica) on the coffee table,  or a magazine carelessly on your bathroom counter.

If you do not believe your kids will key into it, you are gravely mistaken.  There has never been a copy of 50 shades in my house, I’ve never talked about the book in the presence of my family.  Yet, my 15 year old daughter knew enough about it that when a promo played at the movie theater about the 50 Shades movie… she knew what it was and questioned how they were even allowed to show it in theaters.

A mom was collecting books for a book drive, and before she sorted through the box herself, one of her daughters sifted through it looking for anything interesting.  The mom had no idea that her daughter, who was probably 12 or younger at the time, had grabbed a few romance novels and shuttled them off to her room.

I also think back to a friend from high school that would tell me about all the “things” her mom kept locked up in her room, in a special chest.  She had been told to stay out of it, but when her mom was a work she found the key.  She wanted to know what her mom was hiding.

Kids are curious.  They will look at things we never expect.  They will disregard rules to satiate that curiosity over what we are hiding from them.  Group all of this with the internet, which can answer (with pictures) just about any question a kid has about a taboo topic from school…. well, there you go.

I began to purge my home of anything related to these materials, in essence I asked myself … “How would I feel if my kids walked in while I was watching this?”… “Would I want my teenager to pick up this book and read it?”…. and “What would God think about me watching this?”.   Truth is, I already know what God thinks about it.  His word is pretty straight forward.

I also began to realize the double standard I was setting.  I would never allow my husband to watch porn, go to a strip club, or subscribe to a “mens magazine”.  Yet, somewhere in our minds we can convince ourselves that they are just words on a page.  No pictures.  No harm.  The encounters are part of a bigger story.  I challenge anyone to read any of these books, skipping the sex scenes, and tell me that they are well written books and story lines that hold on their own without the sex scenes.  Fact is, the sex scenes are exactly what makes these books different.  Calling out to a need not being met in the lives of women, everywhere.  Christian.  Atheist.  Pluralist.  Married.  Mother.  Single.   Grandmothers.  Mothers. Daughters.

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When I grabbed the book, PULLING BACK THE SHADES, I expected this would be a book that would tell us all about how awful we are to read such material.  I figured a good finger wagging was in order, anyone reading it would walk away with shame and guilt.

I WAS WRONG.

Instead you find quite the opposite, you find frank discussion about Christianity, sex within the confines of marriage, a gentle approach toward the single woman, and some real honest truth.

The co-authors take turns speaking from their own perspectives … one who read, one who didn’t… one who writes and speaks on modesty and purity, one who helps counsel couples who have struggles in their intimacy.

This is not a book bashing 50 Shades, but dealing with the entire industry of erotica… which is growing.   It doesn’t shame you for being a Christian woman with sexual needs and desires, but instead points you toward HEALTHY sex life within the confines of marriage.  It explores the damage that can come from erotica to your marriage relationship, to your expectations of your future spouse, and your relationship with God.

While it would be great to avoid it, the book accepts that some of us are past that point.  We have been exposed at early ages, or later ages.  They don’t call erotica “mommy porn” for no reason.  So what do you do?  How do you get those mental images out of your head?  How do you stop seeing your husband as someone who doesn’t measure up to the hero or main character from your stories?  Why isn’t a book like 50 Shades safe?  (Guess what… even within the bondage community, the 50 Shades series is not supported and considered inaccurate, and dangerous)

Certainly Pulling Back the Shades is NOT suggesting you should read 50 Shades or erotica, or permissing it as ok.  It doesn’t support the idea that porn is ok, when a husband and wife watch it together.  Instead it gives us permission as women that our fantasies are OK, we don’t need the book or movie… we have our husband in the flesh!

MOST IMPORTANTLY, the book addresses something that is plaguing the Christian Woman today.  The book addresses how over the generations Christian women have been so pressed about sexual purity, that they will find guilt in sex IN THEIR MARRIAGE.   The place it has been reserved for, the very place we are supposed to have sexual freedom… we feel GUILTY because specifics about healthy marital sex have been avoided entirely in the church -OR- so much emphasis on shame that it becomes hard to escape it.

There is a reason women are flocking to erotica.  There is a reason women are flocking to romance novels and movies/tv shows.  They wouldn’t be a success, the industry wouldn’t be growing if it wasn’t meeting a need.

What need is it fulfilling?

Why does it meet it?  Emotionally, physically & psychologically?

What is the truth, we need to hear?  What are the risks?

How can we, as women, gain control of our God given sexuality in our marriages?

What if it’s too late?  What if you are addicted?  How do you overcome this struggle?

PICK UP THIS BOOK.  IT’S A QUICK, EASY READ.  READ IT.  SHARE IT.  RECOMMEND IT. 

50 Shades gained so much popularity that a hotel in Europe replaced all of it’s Bible’s with copies of 50 Shades.  It can’t be denied that society as a whole is normalizing this material, and that Christian women are not apart of their readers.  With online shopping, no one has to worry about their Pastor’s wife seeing them shopping in the Adult Literature section of the local book store.

Personal stories shared in this book clue us into how something as simple as reading a romance novel can impact our lives, relationships and marriages in the long term.

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I wish I could take back the images that have been ingrained into my memory.   I wish I could erase those magazine pages, the things I saw.  Fact is, they did impact me long term.  The way I look and feel about myself, at minimum.  Lord, I pray that you unbind these images from my mind.  Take them from me, let them never be used to distract me again.   There is always hope.  For my hope is found in the Lord.  He has saved me.  He has washed me, white as snow.  Protect my marriage.  Protect my children’s eyes and ears, hearts and minds.  Amen.

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Pulling Back the Shades

Author:  Dannah Gresh, Dr. Juli Slattery

Moody Publishers

ISBN: 13-978-0-8024-1088-7