Gird up your loins.

Sounds gross, right? Loins. Just the word sounds slimy and unappealing. It’s a really old school phrase that basically means to get your tunic (men) pulled up and out of the way to prepare for a fight. I’m going to compare it to the phrase (ladies) to “Put your big girl panties on.” Roll up your sleeves, crack your knuckles, grit your teeth, and get ready to stand your ground. Take on the day. Take on the problem. Get ready to fight.

I think many of us have some things we need to fight for. Right now, I feel like I need to fight for my kids’ innocence. That is my battle ground right now. That’s a fight I’m not prepared to lose. And I will gird up my loins (do girls have loins) and fight. We’ve been through some rough patches where we had to fight for our marriage. We’ll be there again, I have no doubt. Maybe we need to fight for our health. Maybe we have friendships we need to fight for. Maybe we need to fight for our integrity.

And when it comes to these kind of fights, I think these things are important to remember:

  1. Prayer is seriously a great line of defense. (And I admittedly don’t do enough of it.)
  2. We need a good support system.
  3. Humility is our ally. Pride is our enemy.
  4. When in doubt, just tell the truth.
  5. Limit distractions.

And just for fun, here’s an illustration of how to literally gird up your loins. It’s a good thing guys now have Hanes. This looks complicated.

gird-up-your-loins-2

 

 

The talk

Okay, so let’s have the talk. You know, the sex talk. The one that makes us all uncomfortable…? Yeah, let’s do that. Specifically, let’s talk about sex in a marriage relationship. This topic so huge and multifaceted, that it’s difficult to narrow it down to just one blog post. There are who knows how many books, articles, Bible passages, songs, etc…written about the subject. And there is a list of books with Amazon links at the bottom of this post if you want to check that out.


The area I want to focus most on are barriers to a healthy sex life. I want to say first that while my husband and I do have a pretty healthy sex life, we are not experts by any means. I’ve read a few books. He’s read parts of a few books. Much of what we have learned over the years is through trail and error…lots of error.


I think the majority of us who are married would agree that men think about sex and want to have sex much more than women. But why is that? Is it because men are sex addicts? Is it because men are “pervs?” Is it because women are frigid? Is it because women are too modest? Those might be some reasons for some people. Those are certainly some stereotypes that we think of sometimes. But really, it’s just how we are made. It’s just how we are wired. Both men and women have to move outside of their own selfishness to be able to be the sexual partner that the other needs. To be able to maintain a sex life that is satisfying to my husband, I have to put myself aside sometimes. And to maintain a sex life that is satisfying for me, my husband also has to set his own needs aside. It’s how it is meant to be.


Think about it. If I only got my way, we’d have sex like once or twice a month. Seriously. That would keep me sexually satisfied. Would it keep me emotionally satisfied and connected to my husband on a deep level? No, but it would keep me sexually satisfied. I’m tired. Stuff is required of me all day. People are needing me all day. Once the kids are in bed, I honestly just don’t want to be needed. I often want to be left alone. That’s the truth.


And if my husband got his way, we’d have sex every day…sometimes more than once. Being tired, mad, hungry, sick… none of those things are deterrents. He can be consumed with work worries and still want to have sex. And let me be clear…he’s not out of the ordinary. He’s not a weirdo. Not at all. He’s just a regular, normal man.


So somehow we have to come to a common ground that we can both live with. And not just live with, but thrive in. We have to come to a place where, given our different needs, we are both satisfied and feel loved and valued. And many people think that this just magically happens when you get married. It does not! It takes intentional work and practice.


So I’ve asked for some friends to give me their input and I think the number 1 barrier to a healthy sex life in marriage is…


1. SELFISHNESS!! Selfishness selfishness selfishness!!!

Most, if not all, of the other barriers can really be resolved if we would just put our spouse first. Before our friends, before our job, before our insecurities, before our kids, before our desires, before our other obligations. Before my own self. I have to love him more than myself.


These next barriers I’ve listed aren’t in any real particular order. Some of these things are more of a problem for us than other things. And these are certainly not all of them. Not by a long shot. These are just the ones that have come up most in the conversations that I’ve had had with people.


2. Kids!

Ugh…bless them, but they just come along and throw a monkey wrench in everything! And they don’t mean to. It’s not their fault. But they mess up our bodies. They take away our privacy. They drain us of energy. They cause us a great deal of worry. They leave their stuff everywhere! We have four kids. We get it. But in order for my kids to not destroy our sex life and our marriage, I have to put my husband first. “Put my husband before my kids?!” you say?? YES! The best thing you can do for your kids is to love the heck out of their daddy! Love their daddy like crazy. I think women struggle with this more than men. Now, I obviously can’t put his needs in front of the kids’ needs all the time. But here are some practical things that we’ve done and are doing that demonstrate that our relationship has priority.

    • Early bedtime for the kids! And honestly, it’s not early enough. The three little kids are in bed by 8:00 and Jack is in bed by 9:00. We rarely let them stay up later than that. After 9:00 it is mommy and daddy time and they are not allowed to intrude on that. Period.
    • Our bedroom is off limits to the kids! You may say…”What?? But we love to snuggle with our kids in our bed! We have family time in our bed!” Nope…not us. That is my room and Phillip’s room. The kids do not come into our bedroom unless they are invited. We have solid white bedding…on purpose! If I want to snuggle with my kids, I’ll do it somewhere else. That room is mine and Phillip’s space. It is our haven. Which reminds me, it’s really messy right now and I need to clean it. That may seem harsh to some of you, but it is a boundary that we’ve made to keep our marriage and our sex life a priority.
    • We have regular date nights. This was much easier when we just had two kids. We had weekly date nights back then. Since having four kids, we have to be more intentional about it. We have to hire sitters, ask for help from family, steal away time when we can. It’s so important. Carve out time, away from your children, to exist with your spouse.
  • PDA (public displays of affection) in front of the kids! I’m not talking about gross stuff, but if I want to kiss their daddy in my kitchen with them in there, then I will. If they don’t like it, they can leave the room. For real.

3. Time

Apparently people without kids, still have a hard time finding the time to actually be together without distraction. They work too much, travel too much, play golf too much, get together with friends too much, clean house too much, etc…etc…etc… We haven’t lived without kids in almost 11 years so I can’t even remember what that’s like anymore. But here are just a few practical things we try to do to make time for each other.

  • Housework done by 9:00 or not done that night. If dishes and laundry aren’t done by the time Jack is in bed, it can wait until the next day. Are we always good about this? No, but we try.
  • My photo editing done by 9:00. It’s a goal that I can’t always reach. I need to be more intentional (There’s that word intentional again.) about reaching this goal.
  • We say No to stuff. Can you teach this class? No. Can you babysit my kids? No. Can you do this job at church every week? No. Can you help me move? No. Can you take photos of my dogs for free?? Heck NO! Phillip is a teacher so he’s not required to work 60-70 hour weeks. He’s not required to do shift work. If he were expected to do such things, he’d have more that he would have to say no to. We say yes to what we can, but we also say no a lot. Some would say that we’re being selfish, but putting our marriage first and creating margin in our life to be together is not selfish. And it’s flat out dangerous not to.

4. Communication

How often do you and your spouse actually talk about sex? And I’m not talking about husbands complaining about how it’s not often enough or wives talking about how they don’t want to. I’m talking about really asking hard questions and listening and conversing. How often do you and your spouse do that? Do you text or talk during the day about what’s going to happen once the kids go to bed? What about during sex itself? Do you talk to each other about what is working and what isn’t? That is difficult stuff to talk about. We’ve been married almost 13 years and some of that stuff is still difficult to communicate. I sent my husband a list of questions to answer. He knew he’d be quoted and he graciously answered them anyway. These might be some good conversation starters to have with your spouse.

  1. How do you feel when I don’t make sex a priority?
    A – It makes me feel like I have done something wrong, or that you are unhappy with me about something.
  2. Does having a good sex life positively affect other areas of your life? If so, how?
    A – The quality of our sex life is kind of like a barometer for our relationship in general. If our sex life isn’t good, I don’t feel connected to you and that makes everything else seem out of order. When I’m happy with our sex life, I feel more confident and secure everywhere else. My job becomes more tolerable, it’s easier to deal with the kids, and I’m just in a better mood.
  3. What mistakes have you made in regard to promoting intimacy?
    A – I tend to bottle things up. If I’m frustrated or irritated about something, I avoid it or just keep in inside rather than provoke a confrontation. I know that doesn’t solve anything and it just leads to an explosion when it finally comes out.
  4. Do you have a difficult time expressing your expectations to me regarding our sex life?
    A – For some reason, I feel embarrassed about wanting to have sex all the time. Sometimes I’m afraid that you’re going to look at me like I’m nuts and say “Seriously? Again? We had sex yesterday!” I don’t expect to have sex every day, but it’s on my mind a lot.
  5. What do you believe I need in order to want to have sex?
    A – I think you need to be prepared mentally, emotionally, whatever. If you’re distracted or upset about something (not even related to me) I know it’s not going to happen.

Do you know how important sex is to your husband? On his every day life?? Have you ever asked him? Did you know that you can make him feel more successful at work if he’s sexually satisfied at home? It’s a great and scary responsibility, but it’s also a beautiful opportunity to fill your husband with what he needs to live a productive life outside of the home. I love what he said about everything else being out of order. I have the great privilege of giving him order in his crazy life. What an honor to be able to do that for him! It’s not just sex. It’s not. It’s so much more than that.


5. Our sexual past, our sexual pain, our sexual failures

Oh, this is big and there are books written specifically for each of these. This can cause so much damage for years and years. And that’s why God’s design for marriage is so much better than man’s design. But even if we have failed at God’s design, or if we’ve been failed, there is redemption and healing. I’m sure good help is hard to find, but please seek it out. Your marriage is worth the effort.

  • Some CDC research has estimated that approximately 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before the age of 18. Do you see those numbers?? That means that there’s a good chance that one of the partners in a marriage relationship has been abused sexually at some point in their life.
  • From what I’ve read online, approximately 45-55% of women and approximately 50-60% of men have an extramarital affair at some point in their marriage. I think it’s probably higher. And regarding lust and pornography…pretty much 100% of men have struggled with this at some point in their marriage. I’m certainly no expert on this and haven’t really studied on it. There are some recommended resources at the bottom of this post  that can provide much more insight and help in this area.

6. Body image

This is especially an issue with women. Women have a hard time believing in our own beauty. And when we don’t think that our bodies are beautiful, we don’t want to get naked. Plain and simple. And we sure don’t want anybody gazing upon our nakedness in all of its glory. We just don’t. We clam up. We get embarrassed. We want to run away. But men are visual. They want to see, touch, smell, and taste. They just do. And they want to be seen, touched, smelled, and tasted. Sorry if this is too graphic, but it’s the truth. And so here is where we have to let our selfishness go. You don’t want him to look at you? Let him anyway. Men, you want to see her naked all the time? Sorry… you can’t. Use some restraint. We see our own flaws that our spouse doesn’t see. Men, tell your wife how beautiful she is. Women, choose to believe him.


Below is a list of books worth buying/borrowing/checking out/stealing…okay, don’t really steal. I have not personally read most of these, but I’m going to try to start reading through them all, one by one because they are all recommended by people I trust. I’m sure it’ll take me years. But our marriage is worth the time investment and so is yours so look into these books! Also, Family Life puts on a marriage conference that’s really good.

  1. Sheet Music by Dr. Kevin Leman
  2. Real Marriage by Mark Driscoll
  3. Intimate Issues by Linda Dillow and Lorraine Pintus.
  4. Sex Begin in the Kitchen by Dr. Kevin Leman
  5. Sexperiment: 7 Days to Lasting Intimacy with your Spouse
  6. Sexual Intimacy in Marriage by William Cutrer and Sandra Glahn.
  7. Every Man’s Battle by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoker
  8. Every Woman’s Battle by Shannon Ethridge
  9. The Book of Romance by Tommy Nelson

Specifically for healing and hope after infidelity:

  1. Beyond Ordinary by Justin and Trish Davis.
  2. Unfaithful – Hope and Healing After Infidelity by Gary and Mona Shriver

If you don’t like mushy love stuff, skip this post.

This will embarrass Phillip. Maybe. Whatever.


I’m not a big PDA (public display of affection) type person. And I don’t really gush over Phillip the way I maybe should around other people. I think it probably makes people uncomfortable.


But I just have to say that our life these days is incredibly stressful. And sometimes the only thing that clears my head and calms me down is burying my face in my husband’s neck and breathing him in. He takes my chaos away, at least for a little while. I don’t know how I would function without that man.

The gridlock.

Phillip and I are taking a marriage class at our church. Do you want to know why we’re taking that class? Honestly? Because it has free childcare. Because we totally think we’ve got this marriage thing figured out. But we really don’t, probably. But we think we do. Anyway, in the class tonight the topic of being in gridlock about a subject came up. We didn’t talk about it long, but it got me to thinking about the only real gridlock I can recall Phillip and I being in. And I’m not talking about little things, like a movie that I really wanted to see and he didn’t or anything like that. I’m talking about a real big thing that we both were dead set not going to budge on. A thing that really caused a rift that we couldn’t seem to get past.


If you’ve been following my blog for some time, then you may remember this post on my previous blog.


When was this written? August. Just three months before we learned about the girls. And what that post doesn’t really say is that there was really some serious tension between Phillip and myself on this subject. I desperately wanted to adopt again. I didn’t feel our family was complete. I cried myself to sleep many nights because of it. I didn’t feel like he was listening to my feelings and he had said his peace and didn’t feel that I was respecting his decision. He had good, logical, sound reasons not to adopt anymore children. And I had lofty, naive, emotional reasons why we should.


And for the most part we were fine. But I was bitter. I really was. And I was letting it affect our relationship. I was cold at times and just down right mean. I felt like I had already been ripped off by nature or God or whatever because I couldn’t bear anymore children. And I felt like Phillip was just pouring salt on the wound by not indulging my desire to adopt again. I think we were both willing to let this disagreement come between us, especially me. But we were both not going to budge on the subject. I felt he was being intensive and he (rightly so) thought I was absolutely nuts. And I was honestly beginning to worry about the future of our marriage. I wasn’t thinking divorce or anything that drastic. I was just thinking that we would have this unsettled matter between us for the rest of our marriage. That I would be a little old lady still mad at him because he wouldn’t let me adopt another child. And as much as we really didn’t want there to be bitterness in our marriage, I wasn’t willing to budge and neither was he.


And we would still probably be there today if not for the call on November 10th. Because if there was any possible scenario that would cause Phillip to budge on the issue of adopting again, it was the very scenario we were faced with that day.


Mikey has two sisters.


Mikey, the boy we adore more than life itself, the child who has brought us more joy and healing than we could have imaged, has two sister. Two sisters.


And I, being the crazy person that I am, was ready to take them in on the spot without knowing a single thing about them. They could have had three heads for all I cared. Phillip, being the more grounded, reasonable person, still wasn’t convinced that it was the right thing to do.


Until he met them.


And until I met them.

He knew that once I saw those girls that I would be broken down to my core if we didn’t adopt them. He knew that if he said “no” I would probably never forgive him. And right or wrong, he was right. I don’t think I could have ever recovered from that. Because, remember, I wanted another child. I had prayed desperately that God would change one of our hearts. I had begged God to make a way for us to adopt again. And he had answered my prayer. I was the victor!


But this is the thing. I had a very naive, storybook ideal of how it would be. We would instantly fall in love. Head over heals in love. Phillip, again, being the reasonable one, knew it was be very difficult. The most difficult thing we would ever do. He approached the whole situation with much more caution and fear. I was sort of afraid, but mostly just excited.


And then we got them.


And for the first couple of weeks things were really pretty good. And then the honeymoon phase ended. Real personalities started to emerge. The reality of our new life began to soak in. And the storybook ideal that I had imaged began to crumble. Because it was really hard. I didn’t instantly fall in love with the girls like I thought I would. And neither did Phillip. They didn’t feel like mine right away. It honestly felt like they were intruders. And I know they’re just little kids and that sounds harsh, but that’s how it felt nonetheless.


And I was just so taken aback by this. I desperately wanted more children. I had prayed for these kids long before I knew they existed. I longed for them, genuinely. I was expecting the business. I was expecting the insanity and the extra laundry. I really wasn’t caught off guard by that stuff. But I didn’t know they wouldn’t fee like mine right away. I didn’t know that I would have a hard time falling in love with them. Nobody told me that. And even if they had, I wouldn’t have listened.


And I think for a time we both began to question if this was indeed the right thing. Because if this is what we were supposed to do, then wouldn’t it just feel right? What I didn’t know at the time is that it is very typical for adoptive parents to feel this way, especially if they’re adopting a child that’s a bit older like Brittany was.


We’ve now had the girls for about 4 months. And things pretty much feel normal now. I can honestly say that I love these girls. Do I feel exactly the same way about them as I do the boys? Not yet. If you’re a parent you know the feeling of being completely intertwined with your child. That child is part of your soul, just an extension of your own body. The feelings for your child go far beyond love. Much of my identity is wrapped up in being the boys’ mom. I don’t feel those deep, connected feelings toward the girls yet. But I do love them. And they love me. They have completely accepted me and Phillip as their parents.


So I write all this just to say a few things. First of all, God does still answer the prayers of his people. He hears us when we pray at night and cry into our pillows. He hears our dreams that seem so lofty we can hardly believe them ourselves. He may not always answer the way you hope, but he hears. And even if God does give us what we’ve prayed for, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be all roses. Any kind of significant change in our regular lives are going to present more challenges than we thought they would.


But I also want to come back to the gridlock thing. Phillip and I are very good friends. I love him dearly. I would never want to hurt him and he would never want to hurt me. But when we were in this place of disagreement, we were hurting each other whether it was intentional or unintentional. We were both wrong. We both wanted to control our future based on somewhat selfish desires. When all the while, God already had the whole thing figured out. And he put in place a plan that was bigger than either one of us. Don’t let your marriage suffer because of a disagreement that is bigger than you. Really, just adore your husband or wife and know that God already has it all figured out.


And even thought it is still hard and we still have some bad days, I know that these girls are right where they are supposed to be. As I cried at night back in August for God to hear my prayer, he already knew the children that I was crying for.


And the gridlock is no more.

My Favorite Part of the Day

This may gross some of you out. Or you might puke a little in your mouth after reading this or something along those lines. I don’t care. Seriously, I don’t.


My favorite part of the day has always been after the kids go to bed and Phillip and I have an hour or two to just relax and talk or watch t.v. together. I’m not talking about making out like teenagers, although if we weren’t so stinking tired all the time we just might. It’s nice to just…be…just exist together without all the interruptions that are present when the kids are awake.


Now that we have four kids this time for us is so much more valuable. I just love resting next to him or laying on his chest and watching some garbage on t.v. Just that hour or two in the evening after the kids go to bed is enough to take away the stress of the day. I just can’t imagine my life without him. And now, especially since we have two more kids, I just need Phillip more than ever. I’ve been telling him a lot lately that he better not dare leave me with all these stinkin’ kids.


And it’s almost that time. My favorite part of the day. I can already feel some of the tension melting away.