Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Single and Searching (Calling All Men Series)





Today I would like to welcome my online friend, Valerie Sisco. Valerie is a single lady looking for the one God has chosen just for her. I love it when I come across women who refuse to settle for less than God's best for them. Valerie is inspiring. She loves to travel, finds beauty in the ordinary around her and writes frequently at her blog, Grace with Silk. Please welcome Valerie to the blog!
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I’m often asked why I’m still single and I never really have a good answer. 

Maybe I didn’t try hard enough during my years at a Christian college to snag a mate. Maybe I gave up on singles groups at church too easily. Maybe it’s because I’ve never gotten on board with online dating. Or maybe there’s just not enough single men for all the single women out there.

All I know is that I haven’t met a man I could imagine spending my life with. (Tweet That)

I know it wasn’t the man I came close to marrying just after college. Not the divorced youth pastor. Not the widower with two young children. Not the man I met at work who didn’t want to come to church, but on our third date invited me to see him performing a nude scene in a local play. Not the man friends fixed me up with who asked me on our first meeting if I’d be content to just hang around the house with him or did we actually have to go out on a date. 

Some of the men I’ve dated were Christians and some weren’t, but honestly I didn’t always see much of a difference between them.

When a man I’d gotten to know at church invited me to coffee after a service, I listened as he peppered his conversation with four-letter words that sounded out of place a few feet from the sanctuary. After months of sitting with him during worship, he ran into a friend one week who asked if I was the woman he was taking to Vegas on an upcoming trip. “No, this is just my church buddy,” he told him.

I wondered, where were the men who had a genuine desire to pursue God and seek holiness? (Tweet That

Were there men who wanted to partner with God, alongside a woman whose heart would join him in that purpose?



I have to admit getting married was never really a dream of mine. I didn’t spend much time thinking about a party of bridesmaids and designer gowns. Although I was raised in a Christian home by committed parents who just celebrated their fifty-second anniversary, I was a girl who loved books and was more interested in pursuing a writing career and decorating my own apartment than hitting the singles scene.

After several years of working office jobs, I finally landed a communications job in the corporate world. I bought a house, volunteered in the community and with my church, and was comfortably happy with my single life.

But something shifted for me. A few years ago God started rearranging the people, priorities and places in my life as I felt him alluring me. 

I felt him asking me to step beyond myself, out of my complacent and comfortable lifestyle to a spiritual journey that has deepened my faith. He’s challenged me to trust him when I can’t see his hand and invited me to wait for his answers.

Instead of filling up the spaces of my single life with more hobbies and activities, I made more space for God.


Sometimes I’ve felt if only I had that one thing — marriage — then I would finally arrive and my life would be complete. I wonder, if marriage is God’s plan for human beings from the beginning of creation, why isn’t that plan for me? But I might be living the life that God thinks is perfect for me. I enjoy freedom of time and space and I don’t have to consider anyone’s preferences in decisions about finances, travel and even meals.

But those are also the drawbacks of being single. 

I think marriage is a picture of our relationship with God. A husband and wife get to live a story that mirrors God’s love for us. (Tweet That)

I still have an unlikely desire to be married. Although it feels too late for me, I know it’s possible to find men who desire to know God. But it’s also possible that the desires God places in our hearts are meant to be satisfied in him alone.

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.  
-Ps. 73:25

Occasionally {more often than I’d imagine} my sister or a friend will tell me they’ve dreamed they were at my wedding. They describe the scene to me in detail — the food at the reception, the flowers, the setting. My sister even told me I was wearing a Vera Wang dress and described the cut, the neckline and the way I looked. I always ask, “Well, who was the groom? Did you see him?” 

And I guess that’s the answer I’m still waiting for.



About Valerie: Valerie Sisco lives in Orlando, Florida, and writes the blog Grace with Silk. Her day job is in corporate communications, but in the evenings you’ll find her dreaming of her next trip to Paris and Italy. You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.




Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Are You The Prize? (Calling All Men Series)


 
Today I am pleased to introduce you to my friend, Elise Parker. I met Elise through the God-sized Dreams book launch team four years ago, and is one of the few bloggers I'm met in real life. She knows the ups and downs of marriage and raising a family and I was so excited when she agreed to write for this series.
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I was the chaperone on an 8th grade trip to Williamsburg, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. You can imagine the scene…Three big busses full of loud, excited, hormonal teens rumbling over highway and byway, and me, one of the few “lay” chaperones, along with a few teachers. I wasn’t at all interested in watching Ace Ventura on the bus monitors, so I happily plugged myself into a series from one of my favorite bible study teachers, Joyce Meyers.

The Triumphant Marriage was the topic. Thick in the years of raising a gaggle of preteens, tweens, and teens, our marriage was ripe for a little boost and I knew Joyce would have some choice wise words. So I settled into the four-hour trip, ready to glean some marriage goodies from Joyce.

One of the things Joyce asked, which has stayed with me to this day, was the question, “Do you think you’re the prize?” (Click to Tweet)


I didn’t have to think about it long, Why yes, Joyce, yes I do! Joyce went on to describe a little more about what she meant. Did you think you are the “better half”? Did you think your husband is lucky that you’re his wife? Did you think you’re actually better than him?

I knew Joyce was onto something. Come to think of it, I definitely believed I was the prize. Chris was lucky to have me…lucky that I tolerated his underwear on the floor, his inability to load the dishwasher the “right” way, his stress level…oh I could name hundreds of little things that made me feel superior to my husband. (Click to Tweet)

Joyce was pointing out an all too common negative view of husbands. As I listened further, it didn’t take me long to realize that I had a very bad attitude, that I was way too critical of my husband, that I disrespected him. I had even gotten into the habit of dissing my husband when I got together with some of my sisters and friends

Bad-mouthing my husband made me feel better than and therefore justified in criticizing my husband. And it also led to me undermining him, in front of the kids to make matters worse. Oh boy, I was definitely in need of an attitude shift.

I confessed and apologized to my husband when I returned home from what was otherwise a really fun trip. My husband hadn’t thought much about the way I treated him and sadly had gotten used to my disrespect.

We talked a lot about the images of men in media. Disrespect is common.

Men are often made fun of for being buffoons, unable to care for their children, and always making a mess of everything when mama’s away. These images of men as idiots are portrayed through many a sitcom, movie, even advertising, including Homer Simpson of The Simpsons, the oblivious dad in Jimmy Neutron, and more. And did you know there is even a Facebook page dedicated to idiot husbands? I mean there is some very funny stuff there and I’ll admit to a chuckle or two as I scrolled through, but there are also demeaning comments that only further disrespect.

So what are we supposed to do? Well, first, ask yourself, if you are disrespecting your husband? Do you think more about the things he does wrong? The things you don’t like about him? Do you indulge in demeaning conversations about your husband with friends and family? Do you think you’re “the prize?”

If you answer yes to the above, try this from Philippians 4:8:
“…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”


It sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? But if you’re in the habit of entertaining critical thoughts about your husband, then it will likely take some effort to change that habit to thinking about the right, lovely, admirable things about your husband. In fact, write a list of the things you like about your husband. Concentrate on those excellent things and I believe you’ll start to appreciate your husband more for who he is. Then you can exchange a few criticisms with a few complements.

As Christians, we are called to build one another up. Let’s make sure we do that right in our very own homes.

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 Resource: A really powerful book on the topic of respecting men is Love and Respect: The Love She Most Desires, The Respect He Desperately Needs, by Emerson Eggerichs. He and his wife also conduct marriage conferences and you can take their course online too. Check out their site.


 About Elise: Elise Daly Parker believes everyone has a story that matters, that God forms our dreams, and He will make them come true! Anchored in writing and editing for over 30 years, Elise is a freelance writer and editor, speaker, writing coach, and MOPS Mentor Mom. She is newly navigating life at home without kids and with a wonderful husband. Her future itinerary includes a grandbaby. You can connect with her on her blog, Facebook, and on Twitter.

Thank you Elise!! And all of the guest contributors on this series so far. Your words have been grace-filled and thought-provoking. Next week we will have Valerie Sisco. She is a writer on her blog, Grace with Silk. She has an eye for beautiful things, and her words will leave you looking for beauty in the ordinary around you. Valerie will be giving us a single lady point of view, so make sure you come back next Wed!

Are you all caught up. No worries! You can catch up here: Intro-Post 1, Why Giving Up Porn Is Risky-Post 2, For When Your Man Feels 'Less Than'- Post 3

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

For When Your Man Feels 'Less Than' (Calling All Men Series)

The key that unlocks a man's heart, that equips him to be all he was created to be, is RESPECT.  It's his truest love language, it's his finest motivator.  

When a man feels respected, it unleashes a healthy power that enables him to love well.  It's the juice that propels him to soar upward professionally.  

And it's the sure foundation that allows him to lead with sensitive wisdom 
in his home, church, workplace, and community.




Based on my years as a pastoral counselor, here's what I know to be true ... when all is said and done, just about every guy I've talked with feels 'less than' in some area of his life.  Underneath the burden of whatever challenge he hauls into the counseling office, he has bought the lie that he is 'not enough.'

He feels disrespected.  And it weighs him down like a ball and chain.

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The accumulated damage often starts in those formative childhood years.

If he was continually belittled or neglected by significant adults or peers, how he views himself plummets.  If his efforts to succeed weren't steadily encouraged and applauded, he begins to give up.  If his shortcomings or failures were exposed for all to see, shame enters the picture and he ends up viewing himself as a loser, a fraud, a failure.

And he carries this complex baggage of feeling disrespected into adulthood.  Small wonder that in the nooks and crannies of his pummeled soul, those oozing wounds of disrespect desperately await a healing touch.

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The wounds of disrespect are often hidden behind surface concerns.  Like ...

He's sick to death of his work ... or he's out of work or underemployed.

His marriage is getting crispy around the edges ... or is in the process of crashing and burning.

His kids, who were once a source of pride and joy, now give him a headache fueled by fear of who they are becoming.

He feels his peers are out to get him, whatever that might mean.

He's been passed over, let go, eliminated, shunned, nagged, blamed.  He feels small and he's scared.  This toxic brew impacts who he sees himself to be ... sexually, professionally, relationally.

He often becomes depressed and angry at the injustice of it all.  He might try to grab hold of the respect he so desperately craves by subtle manipulation or blatant power trips.  If his very real and valid pain is left untended, this man is likely to fall into some form of unhealthy self-medicating ... porn, alcohol, drugs, gambling, sexual / emotional affairs, or other high risk activities.




There are no 1-2-3's in life, there are no magic wands to whisk away a man's feelings of being disrespected.  Working within a Christ-centered support group like Celebrate Recovery or 1-1 with a well trained counselor can be an incredibly supportive, healing experience.  With God's help, here's the steps that might incline him toward emotional / spiritual healing.

Acknowledge
This is how I truly feel.  This is where I'm coming from.  This is the truth of who I see myself to be.  This is my reality.

Grieve
I name all the ways that disrespect has impacted me.  I begin to grieve how this has played out through my life.

Own
I own my responsibility, my decisions, and my choices that were unwise, foolish, or sinful.  I ask God for forgiveness for the wrongs I have done.

Release
I let go of all that I have no power to control.  Other people.  Random life circumstances. Childhood disasters.

Forgive
I release myself from emotional prison by beginning to forgive those who've done me wrong, knowing that if I don't, those people will continue to control me from the depths of who I am.  And I ask those I've offended to extend forgiveness to me.

Re-boot
I begin to see myself as Christ sees me ... forgiven, unique, valuable, one who's in process of becoming a godly man of character and integrity.  I acknowledge that He alone is able to powerfully equip and enable me to live fully in all the ways that matter most.  And I choose to grab hold of some godly mentors who can walk with me into my future.




For women who love these men?

Ask him what he needs from you, what support would best encourage him.  It will probably be completely different than what you might have thought.  Figure out how to be a steady, supportive companion who speaks the truth, but does it in love.

Pray.  Often.  Fervently.  Faithfully.

  
  
Suggested Resources





About Linda: Linda Stoll is a board certified pastoral counselor and life coach.  She's making her way through an unsettling year of transition and grief, and is finding great comfort in feathering a new-to-her nest.  This former ministry leader and introverted author of 1400 blog posts lives quietly with her husband of 40 years in a little haven tucked between the ever-changing bay and the ocean deep.
She invites you to join the conversation at lindastoll.net.

           Wow, thank you so much, Linda. I know you have given me a lot to think about. What do you say, friends?

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The winner of Jennifer Ferguson's book Pure Eyes Clean Heart is...Rebecca!! Congratulations! Once I recieve your info I will get the book sent out to you!

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Did you miss last week's post on porn? Check it out here!

Linking with: Coffee for Your Heart, #TellHisStory, Three Word Wed, Thought-Provoking Thurs

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Why Giving up Porn is Risky



Did you see the cover of TIME magazine recently? Did you hear what the state of Utah declared as a public health crisis? Or maybe you attend a church that isn’t afraid to address this same issue from a scriptural viewpoint?

What are all these people talking about? Porn.

And right now, you might want to look away from this post. Maybe you’re afraid of being judged. Maybe you assume, because I’m a woman, I’m going to be preachy and that I won’t understand. Maybe you just don’t get what the big deal about it is. You think, I’m a man. This is what men do.

If you are one that repeats that last sentence over and over again, you’re right. A lot of men look at porn. One survey revealed that 77% of Christian men between 18-30 years of age look at porn monthly. 36% look daily. 44% admit, or think they might be, addicted to it.

Men are definitely looking. Maybe you’re one of them?

But here’s what I want you to know: I am not here to judge you. My husband is a porn addict. 

Through our journey through his addiction, I have been hurt much, but I have also learned much. And much of what I have learned is that his addiction was born out of his hurt. What started out as a lustful adventure with magazines in the woods of Louisiana in junior high turned out to be a full-blown addiction that followed him for decades, hurting his marriage, his fatherhood, and his relationship with Jesus.

For so long, he convinced himself that his addiction wasn’t hurting anyone. Back then, there wasn’t much research showing how porn consumption rewires the brain. He didn’t know it had the power to decrease his sex drive or that it could profoundly impact how he viewed women. In fact, he thought that once he got married, he’d be able to kick the porn habit for good because he could have sex whenever he wanted.

What he didn’t know then is that porn isn’t about sex. It’s about fantasy and escape. Watching Craig’s addiction cycles and understanding that his porn use not because I was carrying around extra baby weight or because my breast size was inadequate, enabled me to help him identify the real reason behind his addiction: fear.

Fear of failure.
Fear of rejection.
Fear of not measuring up.
Fear of depending on someone who might let him down.

There was a very real part of him that wanted a way out. But there was also a part of him that was afraid to let it go. Porn was his escape into a world where he would not be rejected, where he did not have to deal with the problems that come in real life, where he could remain self-sufficient and self-soothing. Porn was his security blanket and a hole-filler for that emptiness he first experienced as a kid.

In order to give it up, he had to replace it with something else, something that was actually designed to fill in a way that is truly satisfying.

What is it? Intimacy.

And of course, this was terrifying because it felt risky. He didn’t know how to do it, with me or with God.

Emotional and spiritual intimacy is risky.

You have to give something of yourself. It might be rejected.  
You have allow people and Jesus to see the real you. YOU might be rejected. You have to let down walls. You might experience pain.

You’ll have to experience emotions you wish you didn’t have, perhaps confront some pain you’d rather ignore, and depend on people and Jesus in a way you’d never before considered as meaningful or helpful.

My husband eventually took the risk, giving up his security blanket of pornography and learning how to pursue emotional and spiritual intimacy with God and me.

Did he have to confront some painful parts of his past? Yes.
Did God reject him as he came before Him as he was? No.
Did his wife reject him as he shared more with her? No.
Did he experience a sense of fullness and satisfaction that he had never experienced before? Yes.

Was it worth the risk? Yes.

There’s no easy fix, but with God, all things are possible. You are not required to figure out all of this by yourself. He is with you and He will provide support for you – trusted friends, counselors, and support groups. Just ask Him. This question just might be the first step in starting an emotionally and spiritually intimate relationship with the One who created you, who knows you by name, who died so that you might have eternal life.





About Jen: Jen Ferguson is passionate about living life authentically and encouraging others to do the same. She loves cultivating Christ-centered community and is passionate about helping married couples sustain their relationship in healthy and Christ-centered ways. She is the author of Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple’s Journey to Freedom from Pornographywhich she co-wrote with her husband and the Marriage Matters devotional card set (coming soon). She’s a mama to two tween girls and two high-maintenance dogs, which is probably why she runs. A lot. Even in the Texas heat.

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Thank you so much, Jen, for sharing your story here. What are YOUR thoughts on porn? Leave a comment for Jen and I will randomly choose one comment to win a copy of Jen's book, Pure Eyes, Clean Heart.

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The winner of last week's giveaway of the Eternal Salvation DVD is...Valerie Sisco!! Congrats, Valerie!

Linking with: CoffeeForYourHeart, #TellHisStory, ThreeWordWed, Thought-Provoking Thurs

To read last week's intro post Calling All Men, click here. Next week I welcome, Linda Stoll. She is a board certified pastoral counselor and life coach, and you can bet she has some words of wisdom to share with us!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Calling All Men ( A June Series + A Giveaway)




I know you've seen them, I have too. The hundreds of blog posts and websites dedicated to guiding and directing women in the ways of godly parenting, wiving, singling (that's a word, right?)

How to be better, do better. How to be more godly, loving, patient, kind...

But have you also noticed the lack of websites dedicated to men? Who's teaching them to be leaders, to be loving, kind, patient...?

I've taken the Bible studies, I've studied the verses, I've read the blog posts. All telling me how to love and respect my man. If I just do "this" then my marriage problems will fade away. If I only fix myself and let God worry about the rest then I will have true contentment and peace within my marriage.

I respect these blogs and their writers, I do. But they are missing the other half of the equation. The man.

I know, I know. We can't do anything to "fix" a man. And that is NOT what this series is about. 

Our men are facing a real spiritual battle. I strongly believe the enemy is out for our men. It's time for God to raise up a generation of godly men who not only believe, but live out the godly principles they hear about. 

Our men are not leading and loving well. They are falling prey to this world. They are giving in to what the world tells them will make them happy: money, control, materialism, porn, addictions...

More and more women are staying single because they refuse to settle for less than a godly man. Unfortunately, these women are staying single a long time...much longer than they anticipated.

Calling all Men.

Where are the godly men? Where in raising our boys are we falling short? Why are our boys not growing up and living out the faith they were raised on?

Our families are hurting and our marriages are in trouble.

I've been sitting on this topic for a while, and then I had the thought to ask some wise writing friends what they thought. Each writer agreed, our men are under attack! They each bring a different perspective and are in different stages of life.

I look forward to unpacking this subject with you, and hope, it blesses and challenges you.

Let me introduce you to my guests!

First up is  Jenn Ferguson sharing her story of how porn affected her marriage. I have a copy of her book to give away!

Linda Stoll has made a career out of being a counselor. I asked her, "What is the number one thing you have seen the most over the years?" Linda is a wise woman, and I look forward to sharing her post with you.

Elise Daly Parker is no stranger to dealing with the ups and downs of marriage. She has been married over 28-years! Elise is a life coach, great listener, counselor, writer, and speaker. You won't want to miss the wisdom she shares. 

As a single woman, Valerie Sisco shares her experiences with dating and how she navigates the dating field. I'm interested to read her post from the viewpoint of a single lady. 

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To kick off the series I am giving away a copy of  Eternal Salvation DVD, I was given to review. It fit so well with the theme I'm trying to cover I felt giving it away was a must!

It's a redemptive story of a man named Jonathan Wright, who was a highly successful business man. He had it all. Beautiful wife, daughter, mansion in Los Angeles, weekly rounds of golf. Until one day he was struck with a brain aneurism...and an encounter with Jesus. Spiritually, Jonathan was a lost man. He wasn't very nice and made a game out of taunting the one christian that did work with him. Worldly speaking, Jonathan had it all...until one day he didn't, and all his "friends" no longer wanted anything to do with him.

The movie follows Jonathan (and his family) on his post-recovery journey and the transformation that can take place not only physically but spiritually if a man is willing to lay down all his pride and what he thinks he knows. God can and will do wonderful things in and through us.

I was crying happy tears in several scenes.

Now, I know what you're thinking, "Oh, great, another cheesy christian movie." I was thinking that too. There wasn't a whole lot of cheese, however, some of the acting was a little cringe worthy, but the message was worth watching through till the end.

A man, a successful man who has it all and has lived life his way on his terms comes face to face with God. He has to decide. Do I take the chance and find out who God is...or do I continue living life my way?

As a woman, and a wife, it's a hope for transformation that every woman wants to see in a man.

There is nothing sexier than a man who loves God and puts Him first in his life.


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Now, to be entered into to win a copy of Eternal Salvation, leave me a comment about your thoughts on this series. I will randomly choose a winner and announce it next week!

{If you join Fish Flix's email list you could get a $5 coupon. Or text 5-GIFT to 44222. Fish Flix has a variety of reasonably priced Christian DVD's that are safe for the family to watch and inspiring.}

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