Griefs and Sorrows

Today is Father’s Day. Normally, I would mark the occasion with a post about my father or my husband and what a wonderful job they’ve both done in the fatherhood department, or perhaps a piece about the vital role fathers in general play in the lives of their children.

In light of all the horrific news stories we’ve seen played out in the past week, however, I decided to take a different tack this year and share an essay my daughter wrote, instead. I love her thoughts on these matters, and (especially) her gentle reminder of our Father’s immeasurable love for us.

Griefs and Sorrows -- a Christian's perspective on current tragic events

Death and Freedom

A week ago we got news of the horrific tragedy in Orlando, and my heart wept for the 49 souls lost that day, for the family and friends they left behind, for all my loved ones in the Muslim and LGBTQ communities, and for humanity in general.

And then news of another tragedy in Orlando came, and it felt a little closer to home this time, because the boy who died was just a kid — not much older than my little nephew, not much younger than my baby sister. And my heart wept for him and the fear he must have felt in those last moments, and my heart wept for his parents whose grief is unspeakable. God, I pray peace over them: bring them relief from this living nightmare.

And then another death, this time a friend’s brother. I never had the chance to meet him, but his sister is a kindred spirit and constant source of encouragement and inspiration for me. I know she loved him and looked up to him, just like I love and look up to my older brother, imperfect as he may be. My heart breaks for my friend and for her family and for all who knew and loved her brother. I pray that he, too, has peace.

And then just tonight I received word that one of my former faculty members from dental school passed away suddenly. Dr. Hill. This man was well-loved by everyone who worked with him. He was known for treating the students in his group to an occasional dinner out, and I still remember being invited to one of those dinners. I was new in clinic and wasn’t even in his group, but was still included because that’s the kind of person he was: approachable and generous, with a great sense of humor. I saw him just last month, and he was fine. Now he is gone.

I’m sick of it. Can I say that? I’m just so sick and tired of it. Of all this death and tragedy. I’m sick of it striking senselessly and indiscriminately. And I’m sick of people saying that it’s God doing this. As if God delights in the mass murder of human beings by a lunatic with an assault rifle. As if a baby being dragged off by an alligator is part of His great plan. As if He is the mastermind behind every suicide or car crash or cancer diagnosis.

I am no theologian, but I am certain that God does not delight in these things.

The night that the shooting took place, one of the victims, Eddie Justice, texted his mother from the club, telling her he loved her, telling her he knew he was about to die.

I want you to think on this. I want you, my conservative Christian readers, to think on this.
I want you to consider the frantic powerlessness Eddie’s mother felt as she texted her son over and over, begging him to reply, to tell her that he was okay. I want you to consider the overwhelming grief she felt when she realized her son was dead.

Do you think for a second that the fear and desperation and pain she felt was any less than what Melissa & Matt Graves felt as they watched their 2-year-old baby boy being dragged away by an alligator?

I can promise you it was not.

Because for a parent who loves their child with all their heart, it does not matter if that child is 2 years old or 30 years old — they are still your baby. And it doesn’t matter if they are attacked and killed by a deranged psychopath in the bathroom of a gay dance club or attacked and killed by a rogue alligator at a family theme park — their death is going to tear your heart out.

And to take this a step further, I need you to realize something about God that we tend to forget in times like this: it is not possible for us to out-love or out-grieve God.

Even the immense depth of love that a parent has for their child is just a dim reflection of the love God has for us.

And even the immense depth of grief that a parent has over their child’s death is a dim reflection of the grief God experiences over a soul that is lost.

He knew us by heart before we existed in the world, and our names are written in the scars on His hands.

So at times like this when evil rises and tragedy falls, remember that God does not delight in evil or in tragedy. He desires for these things to be done away with forever, and one day they will be. But in the meantime, He waits patiently for us to turn from our sin and back to Him.

We as humans have the freedom to make choices; some choose to exercise that freedom by descending further and further into darkness and chaos until the lines between right and wrong are so blurred that walking into a club and murdering 49 people seems “right” to them just as much as walking into an abortion clinic to terminate a pregnancy seems “right” to a teenage girl who isn’t ready to be responsible for another human being.

This world is broken, but we cannot ascribe its brokenness to God. All He did was permit us to govern ourselves, just as we wanted. We wanted autonomy, we wanted freedom, and He gave it to us.

And freedom has a price, right? A price set by some humans and paid by others.

One day we may experience a greater, truer freedom — a freedom not just from external sources of suffering and pain, but from our own selfishness and stubbornness and stupidity, from our own longing for darkness and our own tendency to self-destruct.

But that freedom comes at a much greater price.

And yet, to us, it is free.


The above post was written by my daughter Bethany and first appeared on her blog, Broken Mosaics, on June 19, 2016.



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Today Is “Kiss Your Mate” Day — So Get after It!

It's Kiss Your Mate Day!

There was a song that was popular when I was in high school, and for thirty years, I’ve thought they were singing, “Your Kiss is on My Lips.” It wasn’t until recently that I learned the words of that song actually read: “Your kiss is on my list... of the best things in life.” And you know what? I like those words even better!

The lyrics go on to say: “Because your kiss (your kiss) I can’t resist/ Because your kiss is what I miss when I turn out the light.”

Shouldn’t that be my goal as a wife? To make a habit of kissing my husband so often and so passionately that he would consider my kiss one of the best things in life? To routinely give him the kind of soft, sweet, sensual kisses that he finds irresistible? To make our nights together at home so memorable that he really misses me whenever we’re apart?

I once read about an interesting study conducted in Germany. Researchers found that men whose wives kissed them goodbye every morning were more successful than men who weren’t kissed. A simple farewell kiss was the one consistent factor that set high achievers apart from the rest. Can you imagine that?

The fact is, success and respect often go hand-in-hand, so if you want to communicate respect for your husband, be sure to send him off right, and don’t forget to greet him with a kiss when he returns home, for good measure.

In addition to improving your husband’s earning potential, kissing offers many powerful health incentives — and these hold true for both participants:

  • Kissing prevents cavities and tooth decay by increasing saliva production, which in turn helps to wash away plaque.
  • Kissing reduces stress and anxiety by helping to lower blood pressure and relieve tension.
  • Kissing strengthens health and immunity by triggering the release of oxytocin and many other disease fighting chemicals into the bloodstream.
  • Kissing counteracts the signs of aging by firming up facial muscles, plumping lips, and precipitating a rosier, healthier complexion.
  • Kissing improves cardiovascular health by raising your heart rate (at least potentially) and providing total body conditioning.
  • Kissing boosts confidence and self-esteem by improving your state of mind, balancing your mood, and raising your happiness level.

And if all that is not reason enough to smooch your spouse, there is also this: Kissing fulfills a Biblical injunction. In 2 Corinthians 13:12, we are told very plainly to “Greet one another with a holy kiss.”

With so many benefits riding on it, you’ll want to pucker up at every opportunity (not just on April 28 for “Kiss Your Mate” Day)!

Tips for incorporating more kissing into your marriage:

  • Get up early enough to brush your teeth and swish a little mouthwash before your husband leaves for work, so you’ll be ready to offer him a proper goodbye kiss at the door.
  • Perhaps you are the one who’s leaving home and returning later. It’s still a great practice to seek him out before you go, tell him you’re leaving and plant one on him.
  • As one of my readers suggests, don’t just limit your kissing to goodbyes. “Couples should also kiss each other hello. And goodnight. And OFTEN! Kissing is fun!”

Of course, you may find that kissing your spouse is like eating Doritos — you can’t stop with just one. That’s okay, too. If kissing leads to more intimate expressions of affection, so much the better. You’ll reap even more benefits when you make that a priority in marriage, as well. 🙂


Note: This post has been adapted from the chapter “Kiss Him Goodbye” in my award-winning book, 25 Ways to Communicate Respect to Your Husband.



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That Time I Had a Baby at 45

Our family has a lot to celebrate this week: Yesterday was my youngest daughter’s birthday. Today is my birthday. Tomorrow is my husband’s birthday. And the following day marks the 30th anniversary of the day we met, which also happens to be “Lovers Day” — isn’t that fitting?

I’ve taken my own aging and my husband’s advancing years in stride. Turning 50 didn’t faze me last year, and 51 doesn’t seem like a big deal, either (although I have noticed my bones creaking a lot more now than they did a decade ago).

The thing that’s been hardest to accept is the idea that this sweet little baby could be six years old already:

That Time I Had a Baby at 45

She’s growing up so fast! She can read. She can ride a bike without training wheels. She even lost her first tooth yesterday!

But the fact that there are no younger siblings trailing in her wake makes the bittersweetness of each new milestone particularly poignant. That’s why I made it one of my New Year’s resolutions this year to hold Abigail in my lap at least once every day: I know those days of cuddling will end far sooner than I’m ready to say goodbye to them.

Incidentally, Abby told me that one of her New Year’s resolutions was to sit in my lap at least once every day — so it’s been working out beautifully so far. We’ve only missed one day in four months — March 1. (That was election day for the Texas state primaries, and I worked the polls all day, personally checking in and credentialing one thousand, one hundred fifteen voters in the span of 12 hours. It meant leaving the house before Abby woke up and returning after she’d gone to bed, so no lap time that day. 🙁 )

Abigail was born the day before I turned 45. I had my first child at 23, my second 16 months later, and another every couple of years after that for two decades. One of the best benefits of big-family living is that I haven’t had to give up the joys of one stage to embrace the pleasures of the next.

I’ve been able to nurse babies and cuddle toddlers and read with grade schoolers and nurture adolescents and teach teens to drive and attend graduations and converse with adult children and witness marriages and welcome grandchildren — all at the same time! That’s been absolutely amazing as long as it’s lasted.

Barbara Kingsolver Quote -- So true!!

But now that I’ve (most likely) reached the end of those precious childbirthing years, I’m more acutely aware than ever, as my little ones pass milestone after milestone, that some of my favorite aspects of motherhood are being left behind in the transition. I don’t want to take any of these moments for granted, which is probably why the following poem so resonates with me at this stage of my life:

The Last Time

From the moment you hold your baby in your arms,
You will never be the same.
You might long for the person you were before,
When you had freedom and time,
And nothing in particular to worry about.
You will know tiredness like you never knew it before,
And days will run into days that are exactly the same,
Full of feeding and burping,
Whining and fighting,
Naps, or lack of naps. It might seem like a never-ending cycle.

But don’t forget…
There is a last time for everything.
There will come a time when you will feed your baby
for the very last time.
They will fall asleep on you after a long day
And it will be the last time you ever hold your sleeping child.

One day you will carry them on your hip,
then set them down,
And never pick them up that way again.
You will scrub their hair in the bath one night
And from that day on they will want to bathe alone.
They will hold your hand to cross the road,
Then never reach for it again.
They will creep into your room at midnight for cuddles,
And it will be the last night you ever wake for this.
One afternoon you will sing “The Wheels on the Bus”
and do all the actions,
Then you’ll never sing that song again.
They will kiss you goodbye at the school gate,
Then the next day, they will ask to walk to the gate alone.
You will read a final bedtime story and wipe your
last dirty face.
They will one day run to you with arms raised,
for the very last time.

The thing is, you won’t even know it’s the last time
Until there are no more times, and even then,
It will take you a while to realise.

So while you are living in these times,
Remember there are only so many of them and
When they are gone,
You will yearn for just one more day of them…
For one last time.

Author unknown

If your baby is still a baby, savor the sweet moments while you can. If your youngest has grown up faster than you ever imagined possible, then you can undoubtedly relate to this poem as much as I do. (I don’t know who wrote it. If you do, please share in the comment section below.)

Of course, there’s no stopping the march of time — and I wouldn’t want to, even if I could. It is vitally important that we let our children grow up, that we encourage and facilitate their maturity and independence, and that we — little by little — learn to let go.

But as long as my little girl still wants to crawl into my lap to snuggle, I’m gonna let her do just that!



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Winston Churchill Gives Sound Marriage Advice

A Little Marriage Advice from Winston Churchill

April 9th is Winston Churchill Day. This year marks the 53rd anniversary of Churchill’s being made an honorary U.S. citizen, so it seems fitting to spend a few minutes today reflecting on some of the words of wisdom for which he is so well known.

Apparently, Churchill exercised the same dogged determination in love as he exhibited in war: Despite the pivotal role he played in WWII, he often boasted that his “most brilliant achievement” was persuading his wife to marry him. When Churchill passed away at the age of 90, he and Clementine had been married 56 years.

Below are a few of my favorite quotes from the British Bulldog. Had Churchill been a marriage counselor rather than a Prime Minister, I imagine his marriage advice would have sounded something like this:

  • “The price of greatness is responsibility.”
  • Want a great marriage? Don’t just twiddle your thumbs, waiting for your spouse to create it for you. Take responsibility. Take ownership. Do everything in your power to make your marriage the best it can be.

  • “The first quality that is needed is audacity.”
  • A great marriage requires bold risk-taking. It takes a hundred-percent, sold-out, do-or-die commitment. No holding back. No hedging your bets. You’ve got to give it your all, pouring body, soul, and spirit into making your relationship everything God intends for a marriage to be.

  • “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”
  • This is true in every area of life, and marriage is no exception. Want a happy marriage? Cultivate a happy heart. Dwell on the positive. Be loving, patient, cheerful, kind, and quick to forgive.

  • “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
  • Marriage is more about making a life than making a living. When you focus on what you can GIVE rather than on what you can GET, you stand a better chance of making that life wonderful in every way.

  • “‘No comment’ is a splendid expression. I am using it again and again.”
  • Don’t feel obligated to spout off everything that pops into your mind. Some things are better left unsaid. Be slow to speak. Weigh your words carefully. If you can think of nothing worthy to say, say nothing.

  • “Kites rise highest against the wind – not with it.”
  • Do hardships send you spiraling to the ground? Pressures spin you out of control? Stay anchored and work together. You’ll rise above the buffeting winds and soar higher than you ever thought possible.

  • “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
  • Push through your misery — don’t sit down and wallow in it. Just as the joy of holding a newborn follows the intense pain of childbirth, couples who pull together and work through their problems report feeling far happier and more deeply satisfied afterward than those who let difficulties drive them apart.

  • “Never give in! Never give in! Never, never, never, never.”
  • This was Churchill’s strategy in dealing with the enemy during WWII. Let it be yours, as well. If your marriage is to survive, you must repel anything that would threaten to destroy it — “great or small, large or petty” — with unyielding tenacity.

Every marriage will face adversity sooner or later. How will you respond when it comes? Will you panic, throw up your hands in despair, and watch your marriage crumble before your eyes? Or will you do as Churchill urged and meet each new challenge with “intense vigilance and exertion,” doing all that is necessary to protect and preserve life on the home front?

Could your marriage use a dose of that kind of moxie? What’s your favorite Churchill quote, and how might you apply it to your own situation?



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Love in Bloom: 5 Essentials for a Thriving Marriage

Love in Bloom - Are you willing to put in the work to really make your marriage blossom?

I just love this time of year. I love the bright blossoms and the emerging bulbs and the grass that grows greener every day. I love looking through flower catalogues and landscaping magazines and pinning ideas to my “Outdoor Living” Pinterest board. I love spring!

I well remember my first foray into home gardening. I poured over a Breck’s wholesale catalogue for days. Inspired by all those beautiful photos of lush gardens, I ordered over two hundred tulip bulbs, then struggled to bury them at the requisite seven-inch depth in the patch of hard, black clay that constituted our “flower bed.”

Once they were in the ground, I put my gloves and spade back on the shelf and waited expectantly, envisioning the riot of blooms that would surround my house the following spring. I gave no thought to watering or weeding or fertilizing or nurturing those little bulbs in any way, yet I was totally discouraged and dismayed when only six of the two hundred ever even sprouted.

I think lots of couples face similar disappointments when it comes to cultivating a beautiful marriage relationship. They’ve seen the movies and read the books and heard all the “happily ever after” stories, so they buy the rings and go through the ceremony and exchange the vows, fully expecting the same blissful results.

But a beautiful marriage, like a beautiful garden, doesn’t happen on its own. It takes a lot of tender, loving care. It takes work. For a marriage to thrive, you must:

  • Cultivate the soil
  • Thorns and thistles may grow in hard, sun-baked clay, but cultivated plants need a little more soil preparation than that. If you want a beautiful flower garden, you must first break up the fallow ground. Likewise, love will never thrive in hearts that are cold, hard, proud, and impenetrable. For a marriage to flourish, hearts must first be laid bare – open, honest, and vulnerable.

  • Water deeply
  • For flowers to do well, their roots must be healthy and intact. If the roots are shallow or diseased or deprived too long of the water and nutrients essential to survival, the plant will wither and die. The same is true for marriage. A love that is firmly rooted in the Word of God, that drinks deeply and often from the well of Living Water, will be better able to withstand both droughts and storms that come its way.

  • Pull the weeds
  • You can prepare the soil and water well, but unless you stay vigilant, weeds will grow up and choke out more desirable plants in your garden. You must learn how to recognize such threats, watch for them constantly, and deal with them swiftly, before they have a chance to take root and establish themselves. So it is in a marriage. The love, joy, peace, and other good fruits that characterize a happy marriage cannot coexist with bitterness, resentment, arrogance, contempt, or selfishness, so don’t give those weeds a chance to rear their ugly heads. Stomp them out the minute they try to take root in your heart.

  • Fertilize as needed
  • The longer a garden grows, the more depleted the ground becomes of the nutrients the bedding plants need. To keep plants healthy, fertilizer must be used to replace vital nutrients in the soil. On the same principle, you should feed your marriage by reading books, attending retreats, and/or getting counseling as needed. It is important to maintain a teachable spirit and to never stop growing as a couple. Don’t assume because your marriage has been healthy and happy in the past, it will always be so. Keep a close eye on things: watch for signs of stress and address any deficiencies as soon as you are made aware of them.

  • Ensure lots of sunshine
  • Even with adequate water, good soil, and proper fertilizer, a garden won’t flourish without lots of light. Likewise, a marriage fares better when dispositions are sunny and bright. “A merry heart does good like a medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22) A cheerful outlook and a positive attitude goes a long way in nurturing a happy, healthy home, so keep on the sunny side as much as possible!

Once I finally accepted the fact that great landscaping takes a lot of hard work, I was not only able keep the little patch of flowers outside our front door alive, but eventually planted and (with much help from husband and children) maintained nearly two acres of beautiful woodland gardens that are absolutely breathtaking when they’re in full bloom. If I’d thrown in the towel when my first attempts failed, I would have missed out on all the pleasure and satisfaction that gardening success brings.

Likewise, if I’d bailed on my marriage during initial hardships, I would have missed out on all the wonderfully happy years that have followed, for a marriage will produce strikingly beautiful and fragrant blooms when properly nurtured with lots of tender, patient, and loving care.

Love in Bloom: 5 Essentials for a Thriving Marriage. Are you willing to put in the work needed to make your relationship blossom?



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Batman V Superman: 7 Important Take-Aways

7 Lessons We can Learn from Batman V Superman

[photo source]

My husband surprised me yesterday by bringing home tickets to Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.

And he didn’t just get tickets for the two of us, either. He bought enough for our kids and grandkids to see it, too, who crowded eagerly into the theater sporting superhero shirts and capes.

A few of our super kids in their super hero shirts.

Here are a few important lessons I learned from that little family outing:

  1. Always research a movie before you watch it.
  2. Batman v Superman is not a kid-friendly movie. From grand-scale scenes of mass destruction, to nightmarish flashbacks of murder and mayhem, to implied trysts between Lois Lane (obviously naked) and Clark Kent, who joins her (fully clothed) in the bathtub, the movie was chock-full of stuff I’d rather my kids and grandkids not have been exposed to.

    That’s not to say I wouldn’t have attended the movie with my husband as a date had it been important to him to see it, but I would have lobbied to leave the little ones at home if I’d known beforehand what awaited us at the theater.

  3. Hollywood loves to blur the lines.
  4. There is a popular trend among film makers today to blur the lines between good and evil until everything is just one dark, murky shade of gray. It’s one thing to present a character — even a superhero — as flawed, for flawed we all are. But those flaws should be presented as being undesirable, a weakness or shortcoming that limits his effectiveness, something he struggles to overcome. Sadly, this was not the case in Batman V Superman.

    Fairly early in the movie, we learn that the Dark Knight has taken to torturing and branding criminals, a disturbing fact viewers are asked to accept without question — or possibly even justify due to the nature of the crimes committed. (The oppressively dark feel to Batman V Superman made a little more sense when I noted during the credits that the name of the production company was “Cruel and Unusual Films.” The credits also revealed that at least one of the songs in the movie’s soundtrack was recorded using wind instruments made from human thigh bones. How’s that for creepy?)

    Unfortunately, Batman V. Superman is not the only superhero flick to get this sordid treatment. Of the trailers previewed before the feature film — Captain America: Civil War, X-Men Apocalypse, and The Suicide Squad — all three promise to be at least as dark, if not worse. That makes me sad. I miss the days of wholesome heros.

  5. There is no such thing as a movie without a worldview.
  6. Lex Luthor sums up a recurrent theme in Batman V. Superman succinctly when he explains to another character that God can be all powerful or he can be all good, but he can’t be both. No sooner were those words out of his mouth than my five-year-old grandson piped up, “That’s a lie!” loudly enough to be heard by all the movie-goers around us. I reminded him he needed to be quiet for the movie, but not before telling him, “You’re right, Sweetheart! That is a lie!”

    It’s important for us to remember that there is no such thing as neutral entertainment. The people that own the studios that make the movies have a worldview that often differs sharply from our own, and their worldview is going to influence the story they tell on the silver screen. Sometimes the messages are subtle. Sometimes they’re in-your-face. Batman V. Superman takes the latter approach.

  7. A father’s impact on his children is huge.
  8. At some point in the movie, all three main characters — Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent, and Lex Luthor — share the lessons they learned from their respective fathers, underscoring the fact that fathers really do matter. For better or worse, dads play a powerful role in shaping the lives of their children. This is true, regardless of whether said father is living or dead, attentive or absentee. That’s a sobering thought, isn’t it?

    Of the three, Clark Kent enjoyed the most positive relationship with his (adoptive) father for the longest period of time. The movie made it clear that he reflected often and deeply on the truths his dad taught him and strove to live by those principles. Not surprisingly, he also seemed the most stable and well-adjusted of the three, with the healthiest relationships with those closest to him.

  9. Society has an unnatural fascination with blowing things up.
  10. Maybe it’s because I don’t have a Y-chromosome, but I’ve never understood Hollywood’s obsession with blowing things to smithereens. Too often, plot and character development take the backseat to special effects, and this is certainly the case in Batman V Superman. If I wanted to see a psychopath bomb a bunch of innocent people, I could’ve stayed home and watched the evening news. Hollywood shouldn’t glamorize such things on the silver screen. They are heinous crimes. Not entertainment.

  11. When we focus on fighting each other, we lose sight of the real enemy.
  12. Both Batman and Superman spend an inordinate amount of screentime preoccupied with, plotting against, and battling one another. Their fixation seems to be motivated as much (if not more) by pride and jealousy as by any desire for accountability or justice. As a consequence, they miss telltale signs that something far more sinister is afoot.

    It’s a good lesson to remember during this election season, when we’ve been subsisting on a steady diet of petty skirmishes between contenders instead of giving attention to far weightier issues. There are powers at play that are bent on our destruction. All the name calling and bickering amongst one another has blinded us to our real enemy — and I don’t mean Donald Trump, or Democrats, or even ISIS. Those who would do us harm are only pawns and prisoners in our true enemy’s hand, and it will take a Power from out of this world to defeat him. That power belongs to God, our best and only Hope. Jesus is the One to whom we must look to save us.

  13. The story isn’t over yet.
  14. Like so many other superhero movies, this one takes special care to set the stage for a sequel before the final credits roll. Spoiler warning: Batman V Superman ends with a funeral, but one split-second glimpse of what happens to the first handful of dirt dropped on the casket lets us know the story is far from over.

    It is fitting that this movie should be released on Good Friday, for that day closed with a beloved hero being laid in a grave, as well. But three days later, Christ arose from the dead, a fact to which many eye-witnesses bore testimony at the time. Jesus walked on Earth, fully God and fully man, unequaled in power and goodness, and before ascending into heaven, He promised to come back again. His story is far from over. The question we should be asking is, will He find us faithful when He comes?

I’m not telling you whether you should see Batman V Superman or skip it, but I do want you to know what you’re getting into before you buy a ticket. For an in-depth analysis of the film’s positive and negative elements, I recommend checking it out on Plugged-In Online. That is what I normally do, and what I wish I’d done before heading to the theater for this one.



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Is It Wrong for Singles to Think about Sex?

I received the following sweet message last month from a reader who raised several good questions. Since other singles may be wondering about the same thing, I decided to post my response here:

Does keeping your thoughts pure mean you shouldn't contemplate sex at all?

Question:

Hello Mrs. Flanders,

I enjoy reading your blog, Loving Life at Home. Not many married Christian women are as open to talking about sex as you are on your blog, and I was hoping I could ask you some questions. You seem like the kind of mother that I could sit down with over a cup of tea to talk to.

[As a college student in my early twenties], I am a virgin and have never even been kissed. I am waiting and saving myself for marriage, but I am also very curious about the sexual aspect of marriage, and I do think about it a lot. I guess that is one of my questions for you — is it wrong to be curious about sex before marriage? To think and wonder about it a lot? To long to experience it for myself someday?

Even though I only want to have sex with my future husband and only when we are married, I really worry sometimes that my thinking about it so much may be lustful, but I do not know.

Secondly, I have wondered often about what my husband and I will do for birth control once we are married. I have read on your blog and elsewhere about the awful effects of birth control pills, so I do not want to use that. And then Natural Family Planning sounds great, but I have read of several people who used it and got pregnant [multiple times] unexpectedly — all within a few years of marriage. Is using condoms every time enough?

I don’t want a child for every year of marriage, but I would also like to be able to enjoy sex with my husband! What would you recommend? This is something I would like to research and learn about before I get engaged someday, and then suddenly the wedding night is here, and we have no idea what we are doing for birth control.

Thank you so much for any help you can give me. I appreciate your blog about marriage and family life so very much.

Sincerely,
Curious but Concerned


Answer:

Dear Concerned,

Thank you for your sweet letter. I’m so glad to know young single girls like yourself are reading and enjoying my blog. I did lots of reading and researching and thinking about marriage before I ever married, too, and feel that helped make my transition into married life much smoother than it might otherwise have been.

It is very natural to be curious about sex and to spend time thinking about it, even before you are in a position to enjoy it with your (future) husband in the context of marriage. That drive is one God has put inside both men and women, and I do not think there is anything sinful about longing to experience something He created and called very good.

Where that yearning crosses into lust, I believe, is when you allow yourself to imagine doing things with a man who is not your husband (which, as long as you are single, means any man at all).

Rather than creating steamy scenes in your head of what it will be like or reading erotica or viewing porn — things which will actually inhibit your enjoyment of sex once you are married — I suggest you channel that energy into more wholesome pursuits, including:

  • Prayer
  • Don’t be shy about asking God to send you a husband. He has promised to give us the desires of our heart when we delight ourselves in the Lord, trusting Him fully and committing our ways unto Him. (Psalm 37:4-5)

  • Preparation
  • Use the waiting time (before Mr. Right shows up) to prepare yourself to be a better wife and mother, both by reading books and by developing skills that will help you in those endeavors. (You can view several recommended titles on marriage and motherhood by clicking on “My Favorites” in the menu bar.)

  • Projects
  • Rather than holing up at home, waiting for God to drop a husband on your doorstep, get involved in a few projects you feel passionate about. Stay active in your church, school, and community in ways that will allow you to meet guys with similar interests and life goals.

As for the birth control questions, that is something you will need to discuss with your future husband, once he shows up, and decide together with him what tack to take. You are smart to want to thoroughly research the options in advance, though. There are lots of things you’ll want to take into consideration before making such an important decision, including the following questions:

  • Is it abortifacient?
  • Some forms of “contraception” act not by preventing fertilization, but by preventing implantation. The IUD definitely falls into this category, in that it turns the womb into a hostile environment for the developing embryo. Hormonal contraceptives produce a similar effect by thinning the uterine lining so much that it is incapable of supporting life. If you believe, as we do, that life begins the moment egg and sperm unite, then you should avoid as unethical any methods of “family planning” that rely on spontaneous abortion to work.

  • What are the side effects?
  • As I’ve written before, hormonal contraceptives (such as the Pill) pack a powerful lot of potential health problems, including increased risk for breast cancer, heart disease, stroke, thyroid problems, and depression. For many women, they also cause a significant decrease in libido. Yet even non-hormonal methods of contraception may carry side-effects that will need to be taken into consideration, such as allergic reactions, skin sensitivities, itching, and discomfort during or after use.

  • Is it convenient?
  • Without question, hormonal contraceptives are probably the easiest to use. Now you can even have them implanted and not have to think about birth control at all for months at a time. But the fact that hormonal contraceptives failed the first two questions above makes their convenience much less attractive. Barrier methods are neither abortifacient nor dangerous to our long-term health, but they can be a bit of a hassle to use. Ditto for Natural Family Planning. The reliability of any method will hinge on your consistent compliance in using it correctly, so if you are set on using contraception, you’ll need to pick something for which the hassle factor is minimal.

I know that’s a lot to consider, but before you get too bogged down in deciding which method of birth control is best, you should probably back up and ask yourself some even more basic questions:

  • Why do I want to prevent pregnancy?
  • Is there a serious health concern? Extenuating circumstances? Or are you just doing what is expected of you or “what everyone else is doing” without fully considering the consequences?

  • Do I share God’s heart when it comes to children?
  • The Bible calls children a gift and unequivocal blessing. Jesus made time for children during His earthly ministry and told His disciples not to hinder their coming to him. Modern society, on the other hand, views children as a financial burden, a nuisance, and something to be nipped in the bud if the timing isn’t perfect. Where on that continuum do you fall?

  • Would I be content with no children at all?
  • The problem with the term “birth control” is that it insinuates we can decide to have a baby just as easily as we can choose to prevent one. That simply isn’t true. The average age for first marriage in the US is now 27 for women, which also happens to be the age at which her fertility begins to decline. For most women, the window of opportunity is closing before they are ever in a position to take advantage of it. If they postpone pregnancy for too long, they may miss the miracle of giving birth altogether. So you must ask yourself, in the event that such a thing happens, will you regret the years you squandered using contraceptives? If the answer is yes, you may want to rethink your position on using “birth control” at all.

Interested in reading more on this topic? Check out these books, all of which I highly recommend:

Adam & Eve After the Pill Start Your Family Be Fruitful & Multiply download Three Decades of Fertility

I decided to post this response to your original letter, because I suspect lots of young girls wonder about the same questions, although few are so bold as to put them in writing. I appreciate your courage. You remind me a little of myself at your age, only I sent my questions to Elisabeth Elliot via snail mail. She answered, and I am eternally indebted to her for giving me such wise counsel and good advice! I would love to think that my words might have even a fraction of the impact on my readers that hers had on me.

Blessings,
Jennifer

Is it sinful for singles to think about sex?



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