“Lost in Eden: Reviving Sexual Intimacy in Marriage”

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Lost in Eden: Reviving Sexual Intimacy in Marriage by Christa Hardin, MA

Does your sex life need a recharge? If so, read your Bible. While, I am joking a bit, it’s actually true. When God created male and female, He also made space for them to have intimacy, calling them to be fruitful. In Song of Songs, we read about about the sensual and fragrant metaphors of grapes, cedars, apples and myrrh as healthy sexuality is described between two lovers. In the Bible, along with information about every other marital need, God has given us a framework for purity versus Playboy-style sexuality in this fascinating imagery. Unfortunately, as you well know, somewhere along the way to now, perfect intimacy is obsolete, and it’s earliest echoes are from times lost in once-perfect Eden.

So going back to the beginning as best as we can, let’s look at a few things God says about sexuality and healthy touch. God gave males a seed, or sperm, to put into a woman and God created that to be a fulfilling and especial, fruitful time. It is a pleasurable time created for a couple to enjoy as well as a time to make future generations. Other brief biblical references are in Proverbs 5:16-18 where a man is chided for having sex with strangers and recommended to enjoy only the wife of his youth. It’s clear that God wants a couples to have a healthy sex life, just as it once flourished in the Garden of Eden when a husband and wife were free to roam and be together whenever they desired. In order however, to tend to this lush sexual garden well as married couples of today, let’s spend some time thinking about what a precious and well-tended intimate garden looks like.

Growing Well

In a garden, we see is variety – it isn’t always the same, right?  A healthy couple isn’t afraid to enjoy variety and different ways of experiencing one another sexually as they become more and more intimate and safe, such as varying positions, touches, times of day or places.

There are also different seasons in a garden, which definitely occurs in sexuality, considering some couples want more or less intimacy than others and some couples have troubles of infertility, vaginismus, sexual dysfunction, issues from medications, more or less hormones at varying times, illness, age, childbirth, menstrual cycle, emotional issues, and fatigue to boot with many these different seasons.

There are many ways we can tend to our marital “garden” sexually so we can thrive. Some couples need extra space and time to process after a sexual moment together while others need more foreplay. More often than not a couple isn’t perfectly balanced in their individual desires so it’s important to talk about it. Don’t get angry if your spouse wants to talk about it at an agreed-upon time. Take a deep breath and leave the embarrassment to the middle schoolers learning about it and certainly not the marital bedroom.

Timing The Sex Talk

Unlike the typical middle-school human sexuality talk, which is intentionally framed with very carefully and guarded dialogue, you can and should talk openly and freely with your spouse. For the sake of ease, here are some grounds rules to help it go really well.

Find out when your spouse feels comfortable talking about it. Some spouses don’t want to talk right before or right after sex whereas others feel that is the very best time. Some would rather talk about it on another day completely, or even while the wife is menstruating so they have something to think about for a little while before trying anything different, whereas others could talk about it any time as well as feel comfortable engaging in sex of all kinds even during the female cycle. There is no end to couples preference in this area.

Here are some ideas for your talk with one another and questions for one another:

When can I safely tell you about my ideas for our sex life?

What are some things that have hurt your feelings in the past sexually (from me or anyone else) or have made you feel devalued in your sexual experience?

Is there anything you want to add in or try to accomplish during our time together (longer orgasm, new position, new lotion)?

Also what are the ways we are intimate that feel best to you?

What makes you feel ready to be in the mood?

How often would you ideally like to be intimate together? How does it relieve sexual or stressful tension for one or both of you?

What’s something one or both of us think is preventing us from having a better sexual life together?

Do we need to carve out room for intimacy in our schedule?

What do you find most attractive to me during our intimate times? Are there certain phrases, comments, touches or scents that drive you wild?

What do you think God wants for our sexual life together? Do we honor Him and one another during this time?

Who could be our accountability partners (counselor, coach, or male for the husband, female for the wife) if we struggle in this area?

For more, call our marital experts at 941-301-8420, http://www.reflectionscc.com or write to me at christa@reflectionscc.com Stay tuned for the complete text, Release, where you can find the rest of this chapter as well as other essential marital topics!

The 411 on Girlfriends by Melissa Jansen, BCLC

The 4-1-1 on Girlfriends w/Life Coach Melissa Jansen

Relationships are wonderful. Relationships are sticky. Relationships are WORK. Whether it’s a family member, spouse, child, boyfriend, boss, co-worker, or neighbor, no one has it the skinny on how to relate. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my closest girlfriends….and why I love them so much. In my 50 plus years, I’ve moved 10 times, and I’ve made acquaintances, friends, and best friends. I did not really have a true “bestie” until the 8th grade, when I formed a close bond with a girl my age with similar family dynamics, who walked alongside of me through the horrible hormones, traumatic events, and getting married. We recently connected in person, finally, and never lost a beat. We only talked for 3 hours but could have gone on for days. Then in late high school, I met another girl who, like me, wanted to just have fun, live life to the fullest, and though we were and are very different, we bonded. We don’t live near each other anymore, so we have to work at communicating. Her life has taken a different road than mine, but we love each other nonetheless. After getting married for the second time, I reconnected with a college acquaintance/friend, when we were both in our twenties, and having our babies. Geographically, we lived near each other for 23 years, and grew closer through a painful divorce, diets galore, political debates, and many laughs and tears. Though we do not talk every day, or even every week, there is an undeniable bond between us like no other, and she knows that I would do anything she asked me to. Then there are the mentor girlfriends, those that are 10 to 15 years older than me, who have gone before me, with husbands and kids and trials, and I cherish their counsel. In between the BFFs and mentors, I have formed friendships with others, and we know we can depend on each other. They know what my funeral memorial will look like, since I have shared it with them. However, there have been lost relationships that are painful. Women who died too young. Women who I used to talk and exercise with, who suddenly disappeared. Women who I studied the bible with for weeks, and never heard from again. Women who I worked with, but once the job was over, moved on. Ouch. Losing those have hurt. Don’t get me wrong….I am grateful for the ones that still exist. I would be a lonely soul without my friendships. Living in a new state for just 9 months, I’ve had to form new ones. It’s like starting all over again. I guess in a way I kind of like starting with a new slate. Perhaps that’s because I know that the solid rocks of my inner circle are always just a phone call away.

If you need help learning about how to find and be a friend, don’t hesitate to book a  coaching appoinment with us so we can help you make sure your friendships, the ones God ordained, can make it for the long haul! 941-301-8420, http://www.reflectionscc.com

Reflecting on The Meaning of Life with Melissa Jansen, life coach at RCC

The Meaning of Life

How many times have you heard people refer to the age-old question, “What is the meaning of life?” Perhaps you have figured it out yourself. No doubt there are thousands of self-help books and workshops out there you can read or attend, and yet everyone has a different way to arrive at the answer. In more recent years, people I know have been focused on their own life purpose. In fact, there was such popularity in churches over Rick Warren’s best-selling book The Purpose-Driven Life that people outside of churches and Christian circles began to read it and try to make some sense of their own journey.

I read the book for the first time, probably back in the 1990’s, and did an in-depth he study of it with a small group and later with my family. While it has many wonderful elements, my favorite chapter highlights the acronym SHAPE. SHAPE stands for S- Spiritual Gifts/H-Heart/A-Abilities/P-Personality/E-Experiences. As Warren explains, these each help determine God’s will or life purpose for you. The spiritual gifts (which can be identified by a free online inventory) tell you how you may be used in ministry. The heart determines why you say what you do, feel like you do, and act the way you do. Your abilities (such as teaching, speaking, or administration) are your natural talents so that you can accomplish God’s purposes, your personality affects the way you use your gifts, and the five common experiences that influence the way you serve others are educational, vocational, spiritual, ministry, and painful experiences. Whew! That’s a lot to take in. The good news is that the SHAPE plan actually works. At least in my experience, once I mapped these five out, it gave me a clearer picture of my passions and what purpose I could serve here on this earth. The fact that it was aligned with God’s will was just icing on the cake.

As a life coach and lay counselor, I have met literally hundreds of people who still don’t know what their life purpose is and struggle for years, in a vicious cycle. They say yes to everything or the wrong things, and are frustrated. Yet, when they finally are able to pinpoint it, with the help of a good coach, they feel free and grateful to answer the question of the meaning of life, or at least, the meaning of their life.

Good Grief: Stages and Cycles

Good grief: Stages and Cycles

Most people have heard at least once in their life about the grief cycle, the one that that Elisabeth Kubler-Ross defined: Shock, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Testing, and Acceptance. These stages are typical for anyone who has lost a loved one, been fired, gone through a divorce or experienced a catastrophic trauma such as 9/11.

There is undoubtedly some form of shock. A cancer diagnosis. A downsized position. A spouse who wants out of the marriage. An airplane crash.  Anger, which in common in some cases, is warranted. Bargaining with another person or God to try and negate or minimize the loss, is often followed by a period of darkness or depression and often manifested as PTSD. For some, acceptance, which may take months years or longer to reach, finally arrives.

What if your grief doesn’t fall neatly into one of those categories? Or what happens if you hopscotch around them, skipping a few, or going straight from shock to acceptance? It’s probable that the average person who has faced a loss will make a pit stop at each one of these but not impossible if she opts out of one or two, especially if the loss was completely unexpected. I have three friends who all lost their husbands within a year of each other, and each one visited these stages differently. One, a pastor who dealt with other’s grief all the time, said she was not prepared for her lifelong husband’s ultimate death from cancer. She was numb, as would be expected, but didn’t stay there long. Another seemed to jump straight from denial to acceptance, perhaps suppressing some anger, but never seeking counsel or much help from others. The last one, due to the tragic nature of her husband’s death, got stuck in denial stage and spent a year without moving on from the position of accepting the inevitable future. She spent many days in a dark soul of the night.

One trap is when a grieving person moves onto the next phase, without completing an earlier phase and move backwards in a cycle that repeats earlier emotions and actions. This cycling is really a form of avoidance of the inevitable, and does not serve the person well. We all must spend an appropriate amount of time in each of these stages, although it may look different for each griever, but there is a danger in hopscotching or completely glossing over pain. It’s real. It’s there. It’s okay to face it. Most of all, it’s healthy to seek help.

Are you stuck in one of these stages of grief? Face them, one by one if needed, with the help of a good counselor or grief coach. You are worth it.

Reflections Life Coaching

Good Grief – How Do YOU Grieve? w/Melissa Jansen, BCLC

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While people navigate the different cycles of grief with different GPS systems, I’ve recently discovered that there are also three kinds of grievers: the intuitive type, the instrumental type, and the blended. The intuitive grievers focus on their pain and they wear it on their sleeve. They are lethargic, paralyzed, often become sick and have little to no self-care. The instrumental grievers are focused on the cognitive. They are actively doing tasks, have more energy, function better and might even be the “go to” person during funeral arrangements. Finally, there are the blended grievers (like myself) who have characteristics common to both patterns and generally can benefit from a variety of strategies to help them cope. When my mother was dying four years ago, I didn’t have the luxury of time to prepare much. I had two days and two nights to think, be by her side, and wait. My pain was excruciating at times; my broken heart void of any consolation. Yet, there were practical things to do. Planning a funeral. Picking out clothes. Calling family and friends to alert them. Planning a second memorial service. At times, the tears welled up or the sobs unleashed. Most times, however, I carried on, and just “did” the next right thing. Months later, it all came tumbling down and I sought the help of a grief counselor, who for a year helped me sort through my loss and actually unpeel layers of past pain.

How about you? Are you an intuitive griever, paralyzed or stuck and lacking self-care? Or are you an instrumental griever, checking things off the necessary “to do” checklist, but maybe skipping the need to share your loss with someone else? Either way, there is hope. Grief coaches and counselors are here. More importantly, God is near.

Dr. Paul Tripp said, “There are only two things I can do in respect to God in a time of grief: I can moved toward Him or I can move away from Him.”

The prophet Jeremiah said, “I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.” He was speaking about God, the only One who can truly comfort us.

Next Up: Breaking the Cycles of Grief

Good Grief

Good Grief: Reflections From a Life Coach, by Melissa Jansen, BCLC

 

Good grief! You’re probably asking, “Really?? How can grief be good?”

Well, it can be. While going through grief is not necessarily good, the process of growing through grief is, as I can personally attest to and have seen in coaching and counseling dozens of clients over the years. Sadly, I was introduced to grief after a major loss as a teenager- the sudden and untimely death of my first love- and a pattern of losses in the next ten years following forced me to see grief up close. A good friend, four grandparents, a father, an ex-husband, a mother and a brother in law…although those were just the personal “people” losses.

Losses can certainly take on different forms. For example, I never considered the multiple times we moved in my childhood, due to my father’s military status, as losses and never fully grieved the moves and the lost friendships that occurred. Shattered dreams or unrealized ideals are losses. Prodigal children are losses. Geographic change and retirements are losses, though we don’t recognize them as such. No doubt every one of us has touched on one if not many of these.

So how do we grieve? How do you grieve? Do you wear your pain on your sleeve? Do you hide it while dying inside? Do you self-medicate it to try and numb it? Do you rely on your faith? Or have you lost all faith due to the loss? Can you possibly see yourself on the other side of it, or not even see past today?

Suffering a loss and experiencing grief in a healthy way is excruciating yet very much a normal part of the process. There is no escaping it. As a survivor of multiple, painful losses, I can promise you that it’s possible to grow and learn and perhaps even pay it forward one day to someone who is going through the same type of loss that you have. It is hard to “get out of the casket” (forgive the morbid reference), but once you do and begin to take the next steps, relief and lessons and freedom are all awaiting you. And all of those are part of growing through grief. The good grief stuff. Stay tuned for more.

Focus, Not Fear

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I am always learning life lessons and God’s messages to me over the last few weeks lessons have been about fear versus focus. I am going to take these learnings about pushing past unhealthy fears, in the hopes that others won’t waste any unnecessary time on fear. This is also a sample of work I sometimes do with a coaching client, although we go into depth. Here goes!

Fear differs from healthy concern because a healthy concern allows room for growth and movement toward goals despite a difficult circumstance. For example, here are a few healthy concerns; f you didn’t study for a big test and you know you are going to do poorly, if you disobeyed your parents, broke trust with your mate, or more dramatically, there is a big dog chasing you and you need to run (in which case, please stop reading!). Anyways, God gave our bodies a way to detect, correct and move through these healthy concerns, and our response to them grows us up in Him, and thus we learn from it. Unhealthy fear, on the contrary, gets and keeps someone stuck and in a panic. Here are a few more annoying things fear does to us when we give in to it.

Accomplishments of Fear:

  • Brands us with today’s predicament forever (globalizes it to be an everyday occurrence even when your situation will change).
  • Freezes us from accomplishing our day’s tasks (we often distract ourselves from life or check out since we don’t want to feel fear, thereby not feeling anything important like love or duty).
  • Takes our eyes off God and makes us look for “other” aka “sinful” ways of doing things (“God doesn’t seem to be helping, so I think I’ll give in to something I know I shouldn’t do, but since I’m on my own, may as well”-type of thinking).
  • Makes us feel pain emotionally and sometimes physically (Imagining you are sick or sicker than you are, feeling scared and experiencing panic making everything you are really going through even harder).
  • Makes us forget our goals in view of managing the present struggle (This can be good to manage a struggle, but when the fear itself is the focus, you lose sight of the real goal for the day).
  • Makes us less emotionally attractive to those around us, who can’t help but see us giving in to negativity and purposelessness, lack of hope, etc. This is frustrating because it is in these times you need friends and family most, and you may not see how you are pushing them away.

Take a moment to pause and consider what other roles fear plays in your life. It uniquely plays upon each of us a little differently. We know some things that apply to everyone though, such as when the Bible says, in Proverbs 29:25, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.”

Since everyone fears, this blog isn’t to demean anyone going through it, but on the contrary, to help someone from becoming wrapped up in it after they have done all they can to help their situation.Focusing on truth, rather than the fear, is so important during these times, because it helps you move through the painful circumstance and back toward the goals you want to accomplish.

Here are some quick suggestions to get you focusing instead of fearing!

  1. Read the above Bible verse (Proverbs 29:25) and spend a moment praying for God to release you from the fear. Prayer does more than anything else can do for your case against fear.
  2. Add this verse to the former in your reading (or better yet, try to memorize it or write it down and place in your view); “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10).
  3. Try to take some time to calmly isolate whatever fear is strongest in your mind. Sometimes random thoughts can overwhelm, so it’s best to know what is truly the biggest stressor. (Ex: The busy day seems too difficult, but when you isolate things it is the dental appointment causing anxiety. Now you can speak to that fear directly with rational truth or speak to someone about it, pray about it, etc. On the contrary, it may be the larger narrative of the busy day that is causing problems for you, such as in the case of setting yourself up for failure with an overly chaotic day – I do this sometimes and it’s nice to pray through solutions and prioritize, leaving room for good rest or play, depending on the need).
  4. Make a decision to address or change the fearful situation you have now identified. You may decide to journal out truths, to remember to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2nd Cor 10:5), to remember Phil 4:8 (to think of things good and lovely), to remember Jeremiah 29:11 (God’s special plans for your life), or you may decide to make a to-do list for the day that will force you to unfreeze from your panic mode, to take deep breaths, to tell the person you need to talk to that you have something to say, to stop looking up health info, to eat better, to exercise, to spend time with a friend or volunteering, to go to church, etc). Be creative – there are many ways to distract yourself from fear.
  5. After you try something, be a student of yourself and especially of God. How did your #4 plans go – did you truly let go? If not, why not? Were there temptations strong that you could use accountability in praying through? Were there unforeseen obstacles? Did it go better than expected? You can study yourself to find out what went well for next time, and leave behind suggestions that simply didn’t work. Study your Bible to see what God says about your life and fears. I know despite the circumstances, God brings His children through each and every hard time with love, purpose, peace, and ultimately the joy of salvation.
  6. Now it’s time to focus. Taking into consideration your overall life goal, what is your ultimate hope for today, that will bring you one step closer to fulfilling your mission? Will you be most blessed by a day of rest? Will you get closer to the goal by calling others to pray with them? To babysit and be with simple and fun kids? To work hard at your office? To pound some pavement on the job search? To study for the classes you know you are supposed to take? To raise endorphin levels by working out? To do a time of sweet fellowship with God? Focus on what God is saying for you to do today, and what the best steps are going to be.
  7. Take some time to write down your plans for today before the day begins or early on in it so you can be sure to side-step any snares that come your way. This includes preparing for what you can do if the day does not go as planned. You can always continue to plan for other days ahead simply because today did not go well, as long as you don’t put all of your hopes on tomorrow and try to get out of today’s roles.
  8. If you are stuck, call us at Reflections Counseling Center and we can walk through your situation with you, step by step, and help you to let go of the fears and to focus on what God’s plans are for your life – plans too wonderful to comprehend! Remember Psalm 139:11 and relax with me that we follow an amazing God, “If I say, “Surely the darkness will hold me and the light become night around me, even the darkness will not be dark to You; the night will shine like the day for darkness is as light to You.”

Christa Hardin, July 25, 2014