Growing up, I never had a real “sex talk” with my parents…or anyone else for that matter. When I was going through puberty my parents had a lot of physical and emotional issues that occupied most of their time. Making sure I was informed about sex and safety was a non-issue. I assume they simply forgot, or shied away from the topic until I was a certain age and then just figured I had connected the dots. They did the best they could (parenthood is all about trial and error right?). Maybe they thought talking about sex would intrigue me instead of educate me. I know they were just trying to do the right thing and protect me, just like I want for my boys. However, the silence had the opposite effect.
As I have mentioned, church was HUGE for my family. As is very common in our culture, my church believed very strongly in the concept of “abstinence only” education. Every other summer they hosted an event known as “Call To Purity.” All the preteen girls gathered at the church and attended a weekend long conference about keeping themselves pure for their future husbands.
I will never forget that night. I was sitting in the first row of a sanctuary like room with my best friend beside me. We were nervous but excited at the same time. “Call To Purity” was a right of passage in our church. My two older sisters had both attended and now it was my turn. At the end of the weekend there was a daddy/daughter dance where we dressed up like princesses. I had seen the pictures from my sister’s dances and how beautiful and fun that it seemed. But that was the finale, before we could get to the fun part, we had to take all of the classes.
A woman came up front and the lights were dimmed. Sad music began to play as she spoke about boys and girls and the evils of dating. She was chewing a piece of gum. Part way through her lecture she took it out of her mouth and held it out to us
“Here, do you want some?” She asked.
We all squealed and giggled as twelve year olds do.
“No!” We exclaimed.
“When you kiss a boy, you kiss everyone he has ever kissed. When you kiss a boy you become like gum someone else has chewed to your future husband.”
My heart fell. I didn’t want to be like nasty old gum someone else had chewed! That meant I could never kiss a boy until I married him. Seemed legit. Everyone teared up a little as she continued to speak about STDS and the horrors of sex. They went through an entire list of all the diseases you could possibly contract from another person by “sinning”. It was horrible. I had never heard of such things! But like I said, Sex Ed was not a part of my homeschool curriculum. They presented the facts in a way that led us all to believe if you touched a boy in any way outside of marriage, God would punish you with these horrible things called STD’s — permanent punishment that would haunt you forever.
A few hours later another speaker came to the front. This woman held a single rose. A different sad song played to set the mood for another traumatizing pep talk.
“Isn’t this rose beautiful?” She asked us.
We nodded our heads in agreement.
“Who would like this rose?”
We all raised our hands with excitement. What little girl doesn’t love pretty flowers?
“Okay. I will give it to one of you in a minute.”
She began to talk about sin, and how sin ruins beautiful things that God created.
“When you kiss a boy, or hold his hand, or worse have sex, you are giving a part of yourself away to him.”
She ripped a rose petal off and tossed it dramatically onto the floor.
We all gasped softly.
“And every time you do those terrible things, you are taking away more and more of your purity; the beautiful gift God placed inside of you to give to your husband.”
“When you give away your purity, or let a boy damage it, you are stealing something from your marriage…”
“And that is going to hurt the husband God picked out for you very deeply.”
“If you let boys who are not your husband have parts of your purity, you will have nothing left to give your spouse on your wedding night.”
Petal after petal fell to the carpet until there was only a thorny stem with a single petal clinging to it desperately.
“Who wants it now?” She asked, holding out the horrible looking skeleton of the once beautiful rose.
No one raised their hand this time.
“Exactly.” She said with confidence.
“No one wants a rose that has had all of the petals plucked off of it.”
This visual would stay with me forever, but not in the way I believe they had intended. I genuinely think what they had hoped to accomplish was to convey the gravity of sexual decisions and inspire us to live a life of purity. What they did instead was impress upon an entire room of young girls that unless they remained completely pure for their husbands until marriage, they were worthless.
Now, the entire weekend was not a negative experience. There were games and laughter and bonding. Dancing with my Dad the next night will always be a fond and beautiful memory to me. My Dad and I were not particularly close. He connected well with small children, but once his daughters reached a certain age he was at a loss to find common ground. This night was different. I felt special and loved and beautiful. I got to dress up in a long gown and have my make-up and hair done. He gave me a ring called a “promise ring,” and I promised to never have sex until my wedding night. I promised to stay “pure” until I gave myself to my husband. “Purity” meant no kissing or prolonged hugs or hand holding. It was also an emotional promise not to give a boy my heart. It was a loaded promise. It was all wonderful in theory, and when I made that commitment I meant it. I was twelve. Twelve year olds want to please their Daddy’s and Pastors and the people in their life who care about them. I believed them. I believed that this was the right thing to do and that it would make God happy.
There are several reasons why this approach is ineffective at best, and horrendously damaging at worst. Fast forward a year to when I met my first real boyfriend. When you are young and “in love” and your hormones are raging the lines sometimes get a little blurred. Kissing was fun. Having someone who said they really cared about me felt amazing. So being taught my entire life that all of these things are simply gateways to sex and satin’s plan of corruption in my life was a serious buzzkill.
I LOVED FEELING LOVED.
I didn’t feel accepted in my church or with my “friends.” My home life was rocky a best. I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere. But this boy made me feel special. This boy made me feel like I was worth something to him. So I kissed him…and was overcome with a mixture of happiness and guilt. I decided I had let him kiss me, so now we have to get married. Bad plan when you are thirteen and in the eighth grade.
But it was too late. I crossed that line. I let a boy kiss me and I pictured that rose petal falling to the ground. I couldn’t glue it back on or fix it. It was done.
It’s okay. We love each other. We will just get married.
Well, that didn’t work out.
I know. Shocker.
So now I had this horrible dilemma. I was no longer “pure.” Life had been explained to me much like a “choose your own ending” book. Because I had allowed a boy to violate my purity, the perfect prince charming husband God had originally planned for me would no longer want anything to do with me. So now I was only good enough for future plan b.
The thing is, the concept of “purity” defining your worth is bullshit. It sets this expectation of isolation and perfection that is just practically impossible. Studies show that almost all Americans have sex before marriage. Why? Well the reasons vary by individual circumstances. But the facts remain its happening, and the position of the church should adjust accordingly.
I am a mother, and I was a teenager not very long ago. When I think of my children of course I want them to wait to have sex until they are married! But will they? I’m not holding my breath.
The biggest flaw in this whole teaching of abstinence only is that there is no discussion of what happens if you DO decide to have sex.
I’m not saying we should abolish our standards, but I am saying we need a little reality check. Parents have to come to terms with the fact that their kids have to make their own decisions at a certain age. You cannot monitor your teens activity 24/7, but if you are reaffirming them from a young age about how special and wonderful and valuable they are hopefully they won’t need to get that affirmation from the opposite sex.
You can’t count on that. There has to be teaching about grace and love and forgiveness. There HAS to be conversations about the fact that your life is NOT ruined by a mistake. A girls worth is NOT defined by her “purity.”
A girl is defined by her character, her love for others, and who she is. She is not worthless because she has been kissed or held a boys hand or yes, had sex before marriage!
Christian divorce rates are not very different than secular divorce rates. This should tell us something. Teaching young girls and women that their worth is wrapped up in their husband and the “gift” of “purity” is crap. My sister and her husband waited until they were married to have sex, and I admire them for that, but that does NOT make or break their marriage. Simply exchanging v-cards wasn’t a magical key to happiness and bliss. They are happy and in love, but neither of them attribute that to their choice to not have premarital sex. They have had to work hard at their marriage just like everyone else and overcome obstacles and some really hard situations.
I was very damaged because I believed what I was taught. I believed my mistakes destroyed me. I believed that I worthless because I had extremely unrealistic expectations for myself that I wanted so desperately to live up to, but simply couldn’t.
Now I know the truth.
Now I know I AM NOT CHEWED GUM.
I am not disgusting. I am not something that has been used and now belongs in the garbage. I am NOT trash, and neither are you! Neither is anyone! I don’t care what you have been through, you are valuable. You are worthy of love and affection and passion and greatness. Going through difficult experiences does NOT make you worthless, it is a gift. I know, sounds crazy, but hear me out. People who have been through hardships have amazing stories to inspire and lift others up. Nothing happens without there being a reason.
I don’t believe that I am less of a woman because I didn’t wait. My husband did not reject me because I was “impure.” We love each other. That’s what matters. We both have flaws and short comings, but we accept and embrace those areas and support each other in ever way we can. Marriage is not a success because of what happened before it, it is a success because of what you choose to make of it.
In my next post I will discuss another monumental effect that “purity” has had on my life…
As always, thank you for reading.
Its official! I have completed my first semester of college! This past week has been one of much needed relaxation and down time, but now I’m ready to tell you a little bit about my experience.
It surprised me how much I learned about life and myself in the last sixteen weeks. It was a lot harder to adjust to than I had anticipated, juggling homework and class times with my kids and housework. But I adapted, and I thrived. I’m ending this semester with A’s! I may not have had time to do everything I had hoped (blogging for one lol) but it has all been so worth it. There are so many ways I have grown and matured that will help me in both academics and life.
1: Speak Up
I never realized how important saying what’s on your mind really is until I entered a college classroom. I used to be very timid and shy around the unfamiliar. I had convinced myself that what I had to say wasn’t important and no one really cared. Debating, arguing your point and stating your opinions are vital! Why? Because what you have to say matters. Everyone sees the world through a different set of eyes. The combination of various opinions and views all create a broad and inclusive picture of reality. Be bold. Be vocal. Be unapologetic about your convictions. Life is too short to walk on eggs shells.
2: Don’t Sell Yourself Short
Math was never my best subject. It didn’t come naturally to me like other subjects and I hated that. I hated feeling stupid. So I simply decided at a very young age that I hated math and couldn’t be good at it because I just wasn’t a math person. That was my excuse as I passed through class after class with crappy grades and no real understanding of what they were teaching me. This semester had made it four and a half years since I had taken a math class. I was terrified to try again. I had already decided I couldn’t do it. As the first few weeks of the semester unfolded, I was really enjoying getting good grades in all my other classes. I was capable, and i wanted more. Something inside of me changed, and I wanted to do better. That desire and drive sparked something new inside of me. I BELIEVED IN MYSELF. I studied harder and I took better notes. I pushed myself further and finished the semester with my best math grade ever. I proved to myself that I am capable of more. I proved to myself that I am smart. Even if you don’t think you are good at something, and even if you doubt you ever will be, don’t give up!
There were plenty of times that I felt like my head was going to explode and was fairly convinced that I was going to lose my mind. I frequently joked my husband was going to have to commit me, sad thing is I was only half joking. Staying up until two or three in the morning studying, trying to work on writing essays and math problems between the chaos that motherhood brings. Those moments that I felt like I was clinging to my sanity by a thread. That was when I learned to breathe. Sometimes literally and sometimes figuratively I realized a moment to pause and think and regain composure is a game changer for the whole day. I never used to take time for myself. I felt like admitting that I needed time away from my children made me a bad mother. Mothers love their kids! Mothers love to be around their kids! Well, I was wrong. Being around my children 24/7 made me crazy and resent my kids. I felt out of control and angry at the drop of a hat. I would scream at them for doing something small, and completely lose it over the big stuff. I was a mess. Then I realized that good mothers know their limits. Good mothers are still women, women who need time and space just like everyone else. It’s okay to admit I am imperfect. Is okay to need time to breathe.
I will admit it, I was flooded with doubts about going back to school. The timing wasn’t right. My kids were too little. I couldn’t handle the course load. There was a mental list a mile long of every obstacle that I was certain would be my downfall. At the heart of it all was my insecurity. I was so afraid of failing I surrendered before I even began. Thank God for my husband. My incredible, stubborn husband who pushed me because he knew it was what I needed. He was so right. Going back to school was one of the best decisions I have ever made and I don’t regret it for a second.
I am really excited for what the future holds and what next semester will bring. I am changing for the better. Every day I am growing a little, trying a little harder, and striving for something greater than what I knew yesterday. I am also thrilled that its summer and I have the next three months to do absolutely nothing but relax and enjoy my family. My plans consist of soaking up as much sunshine and snuggles and giggles as humanly possible
As I transition from the school year to summer break I will be shifting my focus from educational to some very personal things with my past and present. I hope you will continue to read and join me on my journey of self-discovery, laughter and pain
It’s been several months since I have written a post. I have genuinely missed writing and have several drafts that I have started but none I have finished. I would like to say that I have been too busy, but that is only partially true. What it really boils down to is the simple fact that I have been unhappy, stressed out and overwhelmed with my life and this heaping helping of crazy that God has plopped on my plate. I sit down and my mind is both numb and racing at the same time. All I want to do is zone out, and writing requires reflection and thought of some kind, so I simply haven’t been doing it.
Today was different. I read a blog that stirred the writer in me (this particular blogger does that to me every time that her words appear on my screen). She writes about pain and dissatisfaction and feeling inadequate and excluded within the church. I read her words and cry, because I felt that way for so many years.
I vividly remember the day that I realized I didn’t really belong in my church.
It was a warm summer day and the church was having its annual outdoor picnic at the local fairgrounds. I was ten and about to enter the fifth grade. My mother chose to homeschool us until I was in high school, so at that time in my life church was everything. Church friends were my only friends and their acceptance was something that I not only wanted but needed.
I was still young enough that I let my mom pick my clothes. I didn’t really give my appearance a lot of thought. I wore my hair long with two braids reaching halfway down my back almost every day. I had on a fitted little white tee shirt and denim shorts with a thin, pink and white ruffled suspender on either side. I ran over to my “friends” with a giant smile. They were my age and pretty and popular, one was our senior pastors granddaughter. We had played together lots of times in the year and a half my family had attended their church.
As I approached them they stared at me and snickered. I was a little taken aback.
“What are you wearing?” One asked.
I looked down at my clothes and could feel my face turning red.
“Wow. What an outfit.” The other sneered.
I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to do. I felt like crawling into a hole and never coming out again. I didn’t know what was wrong with my clothes.
I looked at them and for the first time realized they didn’t look like me. Their hair was short, barely reaching their shoulders. Their skin was tan and their clothes were tight and new.
“I just got these new Hollister jeans. Aren’t they cute?” Thing One asked.
She turned around and showed us her tight fitted pants. She then looked me up and down and smirked again.
“If you want people to like you, you should try dressing like me.”
Thing two smiled and nodded with her nose in the air.
With those pointed words I could feel my entire self-esteem shatter at my feet.
A million thoughts raced through my mind as I watched them walk away.
No one likes me.
What the hell are Hollister jeans???
I went straight to my mother, flustered and confused. I begged her to buy me some Hollister jeans, only to find out that they were seventy dollars and with six kids it was not going to happen. I spent the rest of the day feeling miserable, like I was allergic to my own skin. I pleaded with her for us to leave but she wouldn’t hear of it. My other siblings were having fun and five out of six wins. I spent the day on the swings alone and devastated, wondering what had changed and if everyone thought about me how they did.
That day was the beginning of a very dark few years for me. I began to realize how out of place I was. I was frequently excluded by the other girls in my grade, regardless how I dressed or acted. It took a little while for me to realize that it wasn’t just my fault. My parens were not leaders in the church, they were just members. They were imperfect and poor and that made us a part of the group of undesirables. They were the people who weren’t able to resolve all of their issues in single encounter weekend. The people who had questions and flaws. The marriages that weren’t a glittery, shining example of biblical bliss. The people whose life wasn’t a screaming success story to be shouted from a testimonial pulpit. They were the people who gathered on the outskirts of this warm and beautiful group of submission and happiness and blessings. They were constantly kept at arms length, ignored and rejected with a hug and plastic smile. They were told that if they went to this class, and then that class and came to every meeting and were in this Lifegroup then maybe they could be considered for a leadership role. “Every believer a leader.” But only if you could meet the impossible and ever growing expectations of the church “vision.” And if you weren’t a leader, if you just frankly didn’t have the time or means to dedicate two or three nights a week in addition to Sundays to the “vision” of the house that meant you weren’t fully dedicated and couldn’t be trusted with any real role in the church.
I wasn’t good enough.
My family wasn’t good enough.
Nothing was good enough.
The more years that passed the more frustrated I became trying to fit in. Feeling constantly guilty and unsure exactly why. Never dressing right or acting right. I just couldn’t make it. This Jesus everyone kept talking about who was kind and accepting and loving. Who thought I was amazing and who made me in his image. The one who died because he loved me so much. I didn’t really know him. I knew his stories. I could tell you every one of them right now, but where was he? This church that hated people and used the bible for political gain, who name called and rejected people. “Jesus’s love is free, we don’t have to earn it.” That was what I thought the bible said, but all I could see was class after class, level after level of never ending things I had to do to be “worthy.” Jesus’s love wasn’t free at all. Or so it seemed, I wasn’t good enough for the people in my church, that must mean I wasn’t good enough for Jesus either and I never would be.
This was all a twelve year journey of back and forth and crashing and burning and trying and failing. Twelve years of misery.
Here I am at twenty two. My numb heart slowly melting and trying my best to heal from this life of scars and pain and religious oppression. This politically fueled monster that stole any shred of joy from my church experience and solidified my desire to avoid Church at all cost. I love Jesus. I love the man from my early years when I was too innocent to be poisoned by mans agenda. I love the Jesus who died for me. The Jesus who adores me and cherishes me. The one who changes people’s lives for the better. I am still trying to discover that Jesus. I’m still trying to find where I fit into the bigger picture. I’m not giving up hope that its real, that this thing I’m after is tangible, and I’m not going to spend the rest of my life miserable. I still believe its possible to be fulfilled by Jesus and a relationship with him. I just haven’t really figured out the details of the every day stuff yet…
There is way to much on my mind for one post…more to come very soon…thanks for listening
My oldest son is only six but every day he finds new ways to amaze me.
He has been asking me for several months to get a Mohawk and each and every time my answer was no.
No thought required.
Because somewhere in my brain I associated Mohawks with…I don’t even know, some type of rebellion that I didn’t want to see on my kindergartener, probably stemming from my extremely conservative upbringing.
Then he came home with a flyer from Awana (a program a local church does for kids that he attends Wednesday nights with his cousin).
Every week they have a theme and the next week was crazy hair night.
He was so excited about it, and I stared at his small brown curls and wondered what on earth I could do with his hair that would qualify as “crazy.”
I took a deep breath.
He is a boy after all, so even if its horrible his hair will grow back in a few weeks right?
“Anthony, would you like daddy to give you a Mohawk?”
He jumped up and down with excitement hugging me tightly and thanking me for being the best mom ever. You know, the usual stuff
Well, fast forward to yesterday.
He came in from school with a sad, slow walk.
“How was your day honey?”
His eyes instantly brimmed with tears.
“Not very good mom.”
“Well, none of the kids at school thought my hair was cool. They all laughed at me and pointed and said I looked silly.”
The hurt feelings oozed out in his small, sad tone. I hugged him closely.
“I’m sorry your feelings were hurt baby. Do you want daddy to cut the rest of it tomorrow?”
He pulled away from me and took a deep breath, our eyes meeting.
“No mom, I really love it. I don’t really care what the other kids think because I think it’s awesome.”
I grinned from ear to ear, and he smiled back bashfully.
“I’m proud if you Anthony. You are such a big boy.”
He grinned and ran off to play with his brothers.
My son is six years old and had already grasped the concept that I as an adult am still trying to get the hang of. It doesn’t matter what other people think. What matters are your thoughts, your feelings and your heart.
If you are comfortable and confident than go with it and embrace it.
There was a part of me for so many years that was so judgmental.
“I would never let my kids do that.”
“I would never be like that.”
But parenthood has taught me a great deal about life in so many ways, and one thing I am embracing is the concept of giving your children a little freedom to be who they are. To have likes and dislikes and opinions are a crucial part of being an adult, and starting when you’re young just makes the concept that much easier to grasp.
I am so proud of my son, and whether or not he keeps his new hairdo is not the point. The point is that he liked something, and peer pressure wasn’t going to make him change his mind about what he wanted.
I am not the perfect parent.
I make at least 50 mistakes per day.
Give or take 100 or so…
But it’s days like this I kind of want to give myself and my husband a high five, because its just pretty damn awesome to get some confirmation that in some regards you are totally on the right track.
My son and I are writing his name on his valentines day cards for school (which are due tomorrow so yay for procrastination).
And by he and I, I of course mean that I am supervising while he writes.
He was very specific about what he wanted this year. He wanted Batman Dark Knight Rises cards for the boys and Princess cards for the girls.
Okay, easy enough.
He finishes writing his name on one and looks up at me thoughtfully.
“Mommy, can I make sure to bring ALL of the Valentines to school tomorrow, even the extra ones?”
“Sure honey that’s fine.”
“Okay, good. Because of there weren’t enough I would really hate for anyone to feel sad or left out; and if they were I would make them a really beautiful valentine myself because I don’t want to see anyone cry or be sad. I just want everyone to feel special and happy.”
I smile to myself has he returns to methodically writing his name.
My son loves others.
My son cares about others.
My son values and respects people enough to not want anyone to ever feel badly, especially because of something he did.
My son is the kid who makes friends with everyone, including the kids who everyone else leaves out.
And while so much of who he is is just the way he was made, I like to think that I have created an environment to nurture his nature.
I am so proud of him and his tender heart, and the older and wiser he becomes, the more and more in love with this sweet little guy I am.
So hooray for good parenting, even if its no where close to all of the time, and so far from perfect I can barely say the word, my kids are getting the right message and that’s the important thing.
Well, I admit it.
I wasn’t as prepared for this whole college thing as I thought or hoped.
Let’s just say the workload of full-time student and raising four kids is starting to get to me, and I’m just like “Holy hell what did relaxing feel like?” I cant remember!!!
There are some definite flaws in my organizational skills that are being exposed full force as I am beginning to feel slightly buried under the pressure of assignments and children and life.
My husband and I are also having a difficult time adjusting.
It seems the very minimal time we are able to spend together and the numerous other stressors are piling up, but hopefully we are able to regain our footing soon.
School is a long journey that doesn’t just end with graduation. I want to be a clinical social worker. I want to help people. He wants to be a businessman, changing the world one company at a time. The combination means we will both be busy with that and our kids from now until approximately the age of retirement, so best to get used to it now right?
Who knew there were so many bumps in the road? The variety of sizes and shapes doesn’t make them any less frustrating when going over them messes everything up.
Lets be honest though, I’m pretty young and I have already learned that it never gets “easier,” as least in my life anyway.
I always hear the saying “little kids = little problems, big kids = big problems.” I wonder if everything is that way?
The older you get the more weight your mistakes carry. When you are young the things you stress about are trivial, and as you age and mature they becomes more momentous.
Every time I turn around something else seems to be going to crap, and I’m just like “mmmk, what. the. hell?” Someone upstairs must find it funny, or must think an awful lot of little old me when it comes to the load of stressors and breaking point ratio.
“Oh no, she will be fine if this happens, just watch. She can handle that and thirty other things at once. No problem.”
But hey, my first couple of tests are finished and my first essay turned in, so thats a load off. Some major adjustments going on but it will all be okay…right?
As always, thanks for listening loves.
Hopefully I will avoid the looney bin long enough to write my next blog *soon*
Whats your favorite way to blow off steam?
How do you keep your sanity and life in tact?
What are some organizational techniques that worked for you and your family?
Today was my first day of classes, and I am writing about it, so that means that I survived.
It wasn’t as scary as I thought, so thats always a plus; although I did feel like I was going to vomit for the better half of the morning from nerves.
I was so terrified of sleeping through my alarm last night, I woke up literally every two hours and shot out of bed, only to see clock and try to relax myself enough to drift back into a restless slumber.
I have never in my life been so impatient for morning to come, with the exception of perhaps my wedding day.
The kids got up on time.
We all ate breakfast.
I didn’t lose my keys.
The car didn’t break down.
I didn’t get lost.
I had plenty of time for everything that I needed to get done and then some.
My first professor was a little iffy, but we will see.
My advisor told me she is tough, but good. Well, the tough part was certainly not exaggerated, so hopefully the good part wasn’t either; but only time will tell that part.
My second class I loved.
Intro to microcomputers.
My professor wrote in giant letters on the dry erase board “Welcome to Advanced Calculous” before any of us got to class. As each person walked in, she told them “make sure you read the board!”
Each of us froze, stopped, checked our schedule and panicked a little.
She messed with our heads a little and pretended it really was a math class.
Each of us became flustered.
The class laughed.
It never got old.
She made so many jokes and made all of us feel so comfortable over the next hour.
I found myself wishing she could teach all my classes, but thats pushing it a little.
As I sat there, it dawned on me that this is really happening, and its not going to be so bad after all.
I can totally do this.
And you know, whether or not it gets to be overwhelming, or I sometimes feel like quitting, I think I am really going to like this whole being a college kid thing.
Fingers crossed for Day 2.
How was your first day of college? Do you remember what you felt like and what you were thinking? What part of it stood out to you the most?