April 26, 2013

Let's Talk About Sex, Baby


Sex. Sex. Sex. Sex. SEX. sex. Sexsexsexsexsexsexsexsexsexsexsexsexsexsex. Seeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeexxxxxxx. 

Am I making you uncomfortable yet? Yes? Than you probably don't want to continue. Go ahead, close the
page, go back to scrolling FB or Pinterest or something safe like that because I am going to talk about sex and not everyone can handle that. 

Which kills me.

Let me back up and give you a little context here. I grew up in a very open and honest home. Discussions about sex or including sexual innuendos and/or graphic jokes were a frequent occurance around our dinner table. (How you feel about that is irrelevant. That's just how I was raised.) The first time I ever went into one of those stores that sells sexy lingerie and toys that you don't want to explain to your children, I forgot my ID and had to tell the clerk, "This is my mom--she can vouch for my age!" That's right--I was there with my mom and sister. 

I started going to church when I was 16 and now my family and I don't always see eye to eye on issues regarding sex. And while my values may have shifted, that openness and desire for frank discussion were firmly implanted in my DNA.  I believe it was created by God and given to us to repopulate, of course, but also to enjoy with our spouse. It's a bond, a closeness that we can have with no one else. What am I saying? Sex is GOOD and given to us by God. Should we enjoy it? Absolutely! With our spouse. 

So why, if God has given us something beautiful and enjoyable to share with our husband or wife, do we treat it as if it's dirty

We may teach our kids the mechanics of how babies are made but how many of us actually sit down and answer the specifics about sex with our children? I'm talking frank discussions that answer questions like:
Is masturbating a bad thing?
What happens when I am drawn to porn?
Is it bad to buy toys?
Is role play acceptable?
What is a BJ/69/missionary/add in your own embarrassing word here?
What do I do if things aren't so healthy down there?
What happens when I am so worn out and tired from raising my little babies and my husband still wants sex but I don't want to admit to him that he's just another line on my To Do list?
How do I ask for something that I want? What if he/she thinks it's weird?

Maybe none of you have ever had any of these questions. Maybe I'm just a freak in a conservative society. And maybe I'm also secretly a millionaire with a Barbie figure! Whether you admit it or not, I'm sure everyone has had at least one question about sex that they wanted answers to but were too scared/embarrassed/ashamed to ask. Or maybe the problem is, you have no one TO ask.

I've been very lucky in having 2 sisters that I can go to with any question, no matter how bizarre. Heck, I can even go to my mom when I'm sure it won't embarrass her too much. But I think many in the church are missing this connection.

Let's just be honest here. You're married? I KNOW you have sex. It's not a secret. Everyone knows you do it. So why can't we discuss it with our friends? And I don't mean in a general, jokey sense where we talk around it. I mean, do you have that person that you can talk to when you have a question or concern? I hope you are at least open with your spouse but what if he/she comes to you and asks if you'd be willing to try XYZ but you aren't sure what to do? Do you go online for your answers? Wouldn't it be best to go to someone you trust, who has the same values and beliefs that you do and discuss it with them?

I believe that sex is a good, wonderful thing within the confines of marriage and if I want to discuss it, I will get the best feedback from someone who is approaching it from the same set of beliefs. Think about it. If you are unhappy with your spouse's performance and you talk to someone who doesn't have your same set of beliefs, is there a chance that he's/she's going to tell you to look somewhere else for satisfaction? Or perhaps to engage in activities that fall outside the construct of marriage?

Again, I feel blessed that even though my sisters and I don't agree on...well, almost everything, I can go to them and get advice or get questions answered or, honestly, we can just vent. But not everyone has that. There was one instance where a dear friend of mine opened up to me and admitted that she wasn't happy with her sex life with her husband but didn't know what to do about it. It wasn't a new problem for her but she'd never discussed it with anyone. That breaks my heart. That kind of thing can wear on a relationship. How long had it been going on without her knowing where to go or what to do? I'm not saying that anything I said to her helped, but sometimes just knowing that you are not alone is a huge thing.

Do I have any magic words or advice on how to approach someone with this kind of topic? Sadly, no. All I
can say is that if you have something on your heart that you need help or advice with, start with the person you trust the most. And be honest. You'd be amazed at how many people go through the same things.

Sex is still a private thing between you and your spouse and shouldn't be broadcast across the internet (or a blog--sorry, MC), but there's no reason that we shouldn't be able to confide in those closest to us about something that is such a big part of any marriage. Try opening up. I think you'll be glad you did. 

April 12, 2013

Into the Forge

I had an epiphany of sorts about a year or so ago, and since then it's been stuck in the back of my head. Some days it's a constant voice in my ear and other days it's only a faint background noise, but it's always there. I haven't wanted to share it before because I felt that I needed to get the words right first. This wasn't something I just wanted to slap up onto my blog haphazardly; it needed to be molded, shaped, worked into the kind of story or lesson that would make sense to someone other than myself.

On Wednesday, I attended a ladies' class at church called "Real Women, Real Stories" and the speaker discussed a song by a woman named Laura Story entitled "Blessings". Here is the chorus:
'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops?
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You're near?
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

After discussing Laura's story and hearing our speaker share her own story, I felt like I couldn't hold this back any longer.

If you've read my blog at all, you know that I live under the cloud of Murphy's Law. Just look at my Friday Flashbacks--it's the whole reason they exist. I'm not grumbling about it; it's the way life is. And I'm sure I'm not alone. I have never had to deal with tragedy in my life. Compared to others it's been a fairly easy life. I still have both my parents, my siblings and my kids. I've never been divorced or suffered from addiction or dealt with major medical problems.

But I can attest to the fact that life is hard. Some days I feel like life is like that bird sitting on the light pole at WalMart just waiting to take a crap on your head. It sucks.

While I don't have a tragic story to tell, I do have a long history of...I'll call them "dings". If you've ever lived
in TX, you know what a car caught in a hailstorm looks like. If you don't know, let me describe it to you. It's as if someone climbed up on the car with ball peen hammers strapped to their shoes and tapped out a dance to the rhythm of "Welcome to the Jungle" by GNR. You know a hail damaged car by the pock marks covering the hood, roof and trunk--hundreds of little dings. That car is my life. I've never had a car that was totalled in a life-altering crash; I have a car that is covered in dings.

It's all those little things in life that, taken one at a time, may not be so bad. But when you are under a constant deluge, it starts to take its toll. Most things have occurred since I've been married, but considering I've spent almost my entire life married, that is more of a commentary on my life in general and not on my marriage or my husband. MC has been self-employed for most of our (almost) 18 years of marriage. If you know someone who is self-employed, you know it's feast or famine. For us, it's always been more famine. Ding. Throughout the years, we've bought houses as fixer-uppers knowing we would gain equity if we fixed them up--but we never did. Ding. We've lost 3 houses and 1 car to repossession. Ding. Once we started popping out kids, I stayed home to take care of them and so we lived on one unsteady paycheck. Ding.

After Howdy was born, I was introduced to the world of depression. This started my on-again, off-again relationship with medication. Ding. When Bubba was 2 days old, he had to have a life-saving surgery and spent 2 weeks in the NICU. Ding. We had no insurance. Ding. When he was 15 months old, he was diagnosed with Autism. Ding. While pregnant with Sassy, I drove myself to a psychiatric hospital while fearing they would find me unfit and take away my children. Ding. 

We can only afford older, used cars that typically have over 100,000 miles on them. I have gone through 6 that I can remember. Ding. My current vehicle has no heat, no a/c, no vent or defrost, 1 working window, no radio and doors that unlock when they feel like it. Ding. Since moving back to TX, MC has had 3 really good jobs come up that we thought were done deals that ended up falling apart--one of them after we committed to moving back from WA. Ding. 

I have had Bell's Palsy 5 or 6 times--I've lost count. Ding. After the 4th time, the doctors discovered that it's not actually Bell's Palsy but a genetic defect that can be corrected through surgery. I have no insurance. Ding. Each time it occurs, I recover less. Ding. 

After spending a year so broke our friends at church actually took up a food collection for us and I tearfully accepted free school supplies, I finally got a job. Yay! In ISS. Ding. We don't take vacations. We don't splurge on clothes and toys and entertainment. We do have cable TV and we do have cellphones. Those are our luxuries. My kids are learning not to ask for new clothes or new shoes or frivolous things like CDs, games or toys because we can't afford them. Ding. 

I have had a tire blow out on a loaded U-Haul that I was driving, run out of money while moving to WA and got stranded in CA, lived in a house that flooded every time it rained, had 3 different purses stolen, had a neighbor kid steal $1500 cash that MC dropped, been detained for shoplifting, had pets die while traveling, and made at least 3 trips to the ER with my kids. I've had 2 ulcers, viral meningitis twice, pneumonia more times than I can count and I started going grey at 15. Ding, ding, ding!

Have I depressed you yet? Take heart because here is where my epiphany comes in.

It's easy for me to go back and look at all these events and see where God's hand was. At least, most of the time. Despite all the hospital visits as a child, I am still here. Despite all my broken down cars, I have never been involved in an accident more serious than a fender bender. Despite losing homes and being broke, we have always had a roof over our heads. We've never gone hungry. At our worst, we were still better off than many people across the world and even in this country.

But here is what came to me. What if God was using all these events, all these trials and burdens and misfortunes to mold me into something better? What if each time something "bad" occurred, God scooped up that event in His hand and yielded it the way a sculptor would yield his chisel? Chipping away the harsh corners, smoothing out the rough edges, digging in to bring out the details? Creating a statue is a long process that requires patience and dedication. It requires the vision to see which parts of the stone need to be hammered away and which only need to be reshaped and polished. It requires returning to the stone again and again, chipping away bit by bit until you get the desired results.

What if that is what God is doing with me?

And how much harder would it be if the stone resisted?

Think of a blacksmith. A blacksmith uses the heat of a forge to soften steel, making it pliable, bendable, moldable.
Rods of steel are heated among coals that are over 2200 degrees Fahrenheit. Once properly heated, the blacksmith uses his hammer, anvil and chisel to mold the metal rod into something useful, something with purpose, something valuable. What if that metal decided it didn't want to bend? What if, despite repeated thrusts into the forge, it refused to become malleable? How much harder would the blacksmith have to work to finish his creation? How many more trips to the forge? How many more swings of his hammer? It's only when the steel rod bends to the will of the blacksmith that he is able to create his masterpiece. Only when the steel stops resisting is the blacksmith able to see his vision come to life.

So what if the next time Murphy's Law rears its ugly head at me, instead of ranting and raving to God and anyone else who will listen, what if I stop and just let God take me where He will. What if I was able to just go with it, lift it up to God's hands and say, "Father, please use this to mold me, to sculpt me, to polish me into the vision of the child You want me to be"?

Will it still be stressful? Will I still be scared? Probably. But when you get on a ride at the amusement park, isn't it a lot less scary when you know what the end looks like? When you know that no matter how many dips and turns and gravity-defying falls you may take, you'll come out okay at the end? And you won't just survive, you'll always have the memory of that adrenaline rush and when people ask, you can say with a smile on your face, "What a ride!"