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Is There Really Such a Thing as "Comfort Sex"?
My guest today is Francie Winslow. Francie hosts the weekly Heaven in Your Home podcast where she offers fresh, biblical ways of thinking about married sex and what it reveals to us about God.   We just endured a brutally exhausting Christmas break. We had high hopes for a fun, relaxing family vacation. However with 6 kids, a host of viruses that flew through our home and several chronic illnesses that have been a part of our story, Christmas vacation was anything but a vacation.  It was the night before school was to resume and already in the course of that day I had gone to my room several times for a good cry as my body tried to process the utter exhaustion and overwhelming heaviness I was experiencing in this season. Wyatt and I were dragging ourselves to the finish line of that hectic day, and as he came into the bedroom, he said, “Francie, let’s have comfort sex.” It was far from a romantic, candle-lit, warm-fuzzy-feeling night. It was a night filled with feelings of defeat, insecurity, worry, and weariness. But in that place of vulnerable weakness, we leaned into the gift of sex as comfort.   We often think of sex in categories that are culturally familiar. Maybe we put it in a category that mirrors what we’ve seen in movies—as steamy, as passionate. Or maybe even something heavy, like a duty or a chore. But what about seeing married sex as an avenue of comfort?  For the first decade of our marriage, we went from one mountain peak to another. We had our share of challenges as we lived overseas as missionaries and navigated a very young marriage, but we felt victorious and strong through the hardships. The past several years have been a completely different story; these years have been filled with trial after trial. Sickness, heartbreak, trauma, struggle, and pain. What has been most amazing to us, however, is that the gift of sex has been just as powerful in the painful seasons as it was in the pinnacle seasons.  In the valleys, physical intimacy has been an invitation to connect in weakness, in vulnerability, in need. It has shown us that when vulnerability and pleasure collide, there is an overwhelming intimacy that erupts. And in some ways, the intimacy of these difficult years has been even more powerful, more meaningful, and more beautiful than what we experienced in the previous seasons.  ...when vulnerability and pleasure collide, there is an overwhelming intimacy that erupts. Sex is a gift made for marriage by God and is a powerful God-revealer. This idea of intimacy in the midst of struggle shows me a window into God’s good heart that makes me want to worship Him all the more. It shows me that biblical sexuality is much deeper than any idea of sex that the world offers. God’s heart for intimacy supersedes our understanding of “romance” and reaches into the core of who we are and who we are becoming as we journey through the highs and lows of life. True intimacy invites closeness in the midst of weakness, pleasure in the face of pain, comfort in spite of the crisis.  When God designed sex, He had magnificent, holy, powerful, meaningful, erotic, comforting, healing, unifying, and heavenly experiences in mind for His people. Sexual intimacy was a garden gift, an Eden dream, and an overflow of the heart of our Maker; and He called it good. It was a gift that was meant to fuse the hearts of a husband and wife, during the good times and the hard times. A gift that makes room for connection when words are not found, when tears flow, and when questions have no answers. Sex in hard times reveals a comfort that flows from genuine intimacy that, if we have eyes to see and a heart to receive, can point us to the greatest comforter of all—God Himself.    Want to learn more about how God's design for sex? Check out these resources: Java #160: Why God Created You to Be Sexual Passion Pursuit, a study through Song of Solomon--join an online book study now! Sexual Pleasure Isn't Shameful (Juli's blog) What Kind of Lover Are You? (Juli's blog)   Photo by Canva  
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3 Ways To Make Sexual Intimacy a Priority in Your Marriage
Be on the lookout for Juli's new book, "God, Sex & Your Marriage," coming June 2022! It’s often said, “Show me your calendar, and I’ll tell you what is important to you.” There are a lot of things we say are important to us but end up taking a back seat to busyness and the distractions that clamor for our attention. Intimacy in marriage is usually one of them.  In his classic book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey explains the difference between what is urgent and what is important. Something is urgent when it requires your immediate attention: a text message, an overflowing toilet, a baby crying. What is important contributes to our long-term goals. Most things that are important are not usually urgent. Regular conversations with your children, exercise, going to church. You can go months without doing these things before you experience the fall out. We make significant changes in our lives when we prioritize the important over the urgent. And something will always be more urgent than building sexual intimacy. You may have found this website because neglecting your sex life has led to a crisis in your marriage. You’ve put aside the important work of building intimacy for so long that you no longer have feelings for your spouse or know how to enjoy intimate connection together. In order to invest time in sexual intimacy, you will have to be stubbornly intentional about carving out time and energy.  We are creatures of habit. One of the ways that I've learned to prioritize relationships is to establish routines (a regular time and place) to work on them. I have a time and a place where I regularly spend time with God. I have a time and a place to connect with friends and family members who are important to me. I have a time and a place to work. The same needs to be true about building intimacy in my marriage. Without a time and a place, Mike and I will neglect intimacy without even realizing it.   Prioritize time for sex. How often should you be having sex? That’s a very personal question that should be navigated by a husband and wife based on a variety of factors like season of life, sex drive, emotional health of the marriage, and physical limitations. There is no right answer, but couples who report higher levels of satisfaction usually have sex at least once per week. That said, the number of times you have sex may be less important than the effort you put toward establishing sexual intimacy as a couple. In some seasons, talking about sex and working through the difficult issues is far more important than having intercourse. Yet, there is still that very practical question: how do we make time for sex? For many couples, their sexual intimacy is subpar for no other reason than they don’t prioritize it. They have sex on the rare occasions when they both have time and energy, the kids are asleep, and they have nothing better to do.  Although it may sound very unromantic, couples that prioritize sexual intimacy plan for it. Planning for sex allows you to prepare for and look forward to your time together. It also takes the pressure off the higher desire person always having to initiate.  As awkward as it might sound, begin with a conversation about how often each of you would like sex. There is a good chance you and your spouse have a different answer to this question. Work toward a realistic expectation that respects both of you.  Next, talk about how that practically is going to happen. You might choose to designate a standing date within your regular schedule, go through your calendars every week and carve out time to be together, or communicate day to day with each other using a system that works for you.    Prioritize time to connect. There is a lot more to building intimacy than just planning time to have sex. Sex is the celebration of your marriage. The rest of what you do ensures that you still feel like celebrating! When will you navigate conflict, update each other on important things that happen during the day, and make business decisions as a couple?  In their book Vertical Marriage, Dave and Ann Wilson give a realistic, very doable template for how to stay connected emotionally with your spouse outside of the bedroom. They recommend 15 minutes a day, one date a week, and one extended weekend a year, alone with your spouse.  You might be thinking, that’s impossible with all we have going on. My mom gave me a piece of wisdom many years ago that still echoes in my thinking. “When you say yes to one thing, you are saying no to something else.” If Mike and I don’t have time to regularly talk and connect, we’ve said yes to other things that are taking away that freedom.  I recently met with a couple who has three young children. Both the husband and wife have demanding jobs. At the end of the day, they fall into bed exhausted. They were sharing with me how much they miss connecting with each other. What they had said yes to limited their capacity to say yes to their marriage. If you find yourself in this situation, something has to change. You and your spouse can coast on fumes for a short period of time, but it will eventually catch up with you.    Prioritize time to play. The daily routine and stress of life seems to squeeze out the freedom to laugh, explore new things, and discover new things as a couple. Once you graduate from elementary school, there is no more daily "recess." Instead of playing, we usually resort to entertainment when we are not working. While entertainment isn’t all bad, it sets us up as spectators rather than active participants in life. To relearn to play as a couple, you’re likely going to have to get away from your normal routine and usual spaces.  The research shows that trying something new, like going to a new city, eating at a new restaurant, or trying a new activity, stimulates those happy brain chemicals like dopamine and adrenaline. When you try new things, you are also far more likely to be present with one another rather than zoning out. This doesn’t have to be an elaborate vacation. It can be as simple as trying a new hobby together.  Some of my favorite times with Mike have been exploring new places and activities like SUP boarding, adventure racing, going to the orchestra, playing pickleball, hiking mountains, white water rafting, and camping. Our adventures haven’t always turned out like we’d hoped, but they created great memories that we still talk and laugh about. What we like to do may not be your cup of tea. Come up with your own adventure list!   Building sexual intimacy will always be in competition with the little things that distract you or interrupt your plans. Don't let the urgent crowd out what's important to you and your marriage. If you enjoyed this blog, keep learning! Here are some other posts you may like: Why Does Sex Matter in Marriage? Parts 1 & 2 (Juli's blog) Stop "Hooking Up" in Your Marriage (Juli's blog) Java #365: How to Create a Language that Brings Meaning to Your Lovemaking Java #371: Schedule Sex & Dry Cleaning in the Same Conversation? It Works Be on the lookout for Juli's new book, God, Sex & Your Marriage, coming June 2022!   Photo by Canva
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3 Razones por las que puedo correr a Dios con mi quebrantamiento sexual
Mi invitada en el blog esta semana es Julia Mitchell. Julia es pasante de Authentic Intimacy. Ama a Jesús, le gusta vivir en el sudeste asiático en donde enseña inglés y le gusta rescatar gatos callejeros y darles un hogar. Para mí, esta pregunta es donde todo comienza: ¿Puedo realmente confiarle a Dios todo, incluyendo mi sexualidad? Todavía me veo en mi habitación esa noche, dando vueltas y vueltas, abrumada por la angustia en mi alma. Agarrando las cobijas con fuerza, hablé en la oscuridad, revelándole mi más profundo y oscuro secreto a Dios. Las lágrimas corrían por mis mejillas mientras salían las palabras, con timidez y valentía a la vez. La agonía de mi alma subió a la superficie hasta que se derramó. Pero ahí estaba, había sido traído a la luz, tenía una voz, ya no estaba escondido. Luchar por mi sexualidad me había alejado de la fe de mi infancia. Y ahora había sido lo que, de nuevo, me había dejado tan desesperada por Dios. En ese momento, ansiaba saber que todavía era amada y atesorada. Recuerdo que luego le conté esta experiencia a una figura paterna en mi vida. Él sonrió y dijo gentilmente: "¿Crees que Dios se sorprendió?" Yo también sonreí, sabiendo que la respuesta era, por supuesto, que no. El Salmo 139 dice “Tú conoces íntimamente todos mis caminos”. Dios conoce los secretos más profundos de mi corazón y no se aleja de mí. Algo pasó esa noche mientras me quitaba la máscara, admitiendo lo que Dios ya sabía. Fue el comienzo de una profunda transformación interna. Hace unos años, me habría aterrorizado decirle esas cosas a Dios. Sin embargo ahora es algo que me da un gran consuelo y me ha llevado a una relación más profunda e íntima con Él, a medida que he ido comprendiendo el poder de estas tres verdades de las Escrituras: El Padre me abraza. Jesús tiene empatía conmigo. El Espíritu me da poder. El Padre me abraza Siempre que pienso en Dios abrazándome como un Padre, mi mente va a Lucas 15. “Cuando todavía estaba muy lejos”, dice el texto. Esto significa que el Padre estaba alerta, observando y esperando, anhelando el regreso de su hijo. Al hijo que lo había derrochado todo. Al hijo que básicamente había deseado que su padre muriera. Al hijo que había rechazado el amor y el hogar de Su Padre y que se había ido en busca de placeres terrenales para llenar su alma hambrienta. Este es el hijo por el que el Padre está viendo a lo lejos, con la esperanza de vislumbrar lo que viene por ese camino. ¿Alguna vez te has sentido como el hijo de esta historia? ¿Alguna vez el recuerdo de tus decisiones pasadas te ha llenado de profunda vergüenza? Tal vez, como yo, te escapaste porque sentías que eras demasiado indigno para seguir viviendo en la casa del Padre. O tal vez, como el hijo, creemos que el verdadero placer y satisfacción no se encuentra en el Padre. Y sin embargo, en el momento en que regresamos, miserables y adoloridos, el corazón de Dios se conmueve y tiene compasión. Corre hacia nosotros y nos envuelve en un abrazo lleno de emoción. Creo que esta historia puede ser tan familiar que pasamos por alto la intensidad de la emoción que Jesús le atribuye al Padre al contar esta historia. Veamos cómo se describe el momento del reencuentro en Lucas 15:20: Y levantándose, vino a su padre. Y cuando aún estaba lejos, lo vio su padre, y fue movido a misericordia, y corrió, y se echó sobre su cuello, y le besó. (RVR). Su padre...Lleno de amor y de compasión, corrió hacia su hijo, lo abrazó y lo besó. (NTV). Su padre...Corrió entonces, se echó sobre su cuello, y lo besó. (RVC). ¿Sienten la intensidad y profundidad del amor del Padre por su hijo? No sé ustedes, pero esta no es la imagen que me viene a la mente cuando he pecado. Los susurros de "ahora no eres digna", "nunca estarás limpia" y "no eres amada después de lo que hiciste" llenan mi mente y me hacen perder de vista por completo el corazón de Dios, el cual es generosamente amoroso y que, a mi regreso, dice con gran gozo: "¡Esta amada hija mía estaba perdida y ha sido encontrada!" Jesús tiene empatía conmigo Durante mis años pródigos, algunas cosas me llevaron de regreso a Cristo. La más llamativa y convincente de todas fue la siguiente: Jesús, plenamente Dios, abrazando voluntariamente esta vida humana. Elegir negar mis deseos carnales es, en el mejor de los casos, agotador y, en los días realmente oscuros, es algo que amenaza con destruir mi alma. En esos momentos, regreso una y otra vez a la humanidad de mi Salvador. En un día particularmente difícil hace unas semanas, mientras lloraba de nuevo con Dios, sintiéndome avergonzada e indigna de ser su hija, las palabras de Hebreos 4 vinieron a mi corazón. Las frases del versículo 15 me llamaron la atención: Él se compadece de nuestras debilidades. Él entiende nuestra humanidad. Fue tentado en todo, aunque sin pecado. Encuentro un consuelo tan profundo al saber que Jesús, aunque siendo plenamente Dios, se sumergió en la cenagosa existencia de la humanidad, caminó por caminos polvorientos y conoce de primera mano el dolor de la angustia y la pérdida. Luego, debido a que Jesús tomó un cuerpo con carne y hueso como nosotros, y vivió sin pecado a pesar de las tentaciones y luchas, preparó el camino hacia el trono de la gracia. Gracias a esto, ¿cuál es mi derecho, como hijo de Dios, comprado con sangre? La respuesta se encuentra en el siguiente versículo: Así que acerquémonos con toda confianza al trono de la gracia (el trono del favor inmerecido de Dios hacia nosotros los pecadores) de nuestro Dios. Allí recibiremos su misericordia [por nuestros fracasos] y encontraremos la gracia que nos ayudará [de forma apropiada y a tiempo] cuando más la necesitemos. Hebreos 4:16 (NTV). ¿Cómo te imaginas acercándote al trono de la gracia? Si soy honesta, por lo general me imagino arrastrándome, con la ropa hecha harapos, los ojos mirando hacia abajo debido a la vergüenza, esperando que no me cierren la puerta en mi cara. Pero justo cuando el Padre corría hacia Su hijo, nuestro Salvador Jesús caminó por los pasillos hacia el trono en nuestro nombre y abrió las puertas de par en par, dando acceso al lugar donde nos esperaba el beso de la misericordia. Él no se aleja, no se aparta. Al contrario, Él pone su brazo alrededor de mi hombro y dice: "Lo sé, lo sé". El espíritu me empodera Vivir en nuestra cultura a menudo se siente como nadar contra la corriente. Seamos honestas, a veces simplemente nos cansamos de resistirnos a la carne (¡¿o soy la única?!). Ésta es una de las razones por las que estoy tan agradecida por la cruda honestidad de la palabra de Dios. Pablo a menudo me parece un cristiano sobrehumano, y luego recuerdo que este "superhéroe" de la fe escribió estas palabras en Romanos 7:  “Quiero hacer lo que es bueno, pero no lo hago. No quiero hacer lo que está mal, pero igual lo hago. ¡Soy un pobre desgraciado!” Este versículo revela la realidad de nuestra lucha interna con la carne, entonces, ¿por qué todavía nos sentimos sorprendidos cuando sucede? Sin embargo, Pablo no se detuvo allí. Inmediatamente después de esta confesión, viene Romanos 8, un capítulo muy querido y citado, lleno de maravillosas verdades. ¿Recuerdas a esa niña llena de cobardía, asustada de acercarse al trono? Me di cuenta de que es la misma postura que adopto a menudo cuando lucho contra las mentiras del enemigo o los impulsos de mi carne. Me quedo allí sentada y lo acepto, actuando como si no tuviera otra opción. Pero Pablo nos recuerda en Romanos 8 que como amados hijos de Dios, estamos llenos del Espíritu Santo. Mi nueva identidad proclama que ya no estoy obligada a darle lugar a las voces del pecado y de la carne. No tengo la obligación de hacer lo que mi naturaleza pecaminosa me dice que haga. El Espíritu Santo me da el poder para decir, “No”. Bien, esto puede sonar un poco fuera de lugar, pero ¿cuándo fue la última vez que le dijiste "No" a tu carne? En voz alta. Realmente fuerte. Satanás es un agresor que quiere destruirnos. Fui maestra de educación infantil durante seis años y les enseñamos a nuestros estudiantes tres cosas cuando alguien comienza a comportarse como un agresor. Di “NO!” en voz alta y con una mano arriba  Aléjate Busca a un profesor Me pregunto qué pasaría si comenzáramos a responder al montón de mentiras de Satanás de esta manera, como hijas empoderadas de Dios. Somos privilegiadas y estamos protegidas, y tenemos la autoridad en el nombre de Jesús para declarar con poder: “Ya no estoy obligada a decirte que sí. Esta mentira o tentación ya no es mi identidad”. Luego podemos apartarnos, ir directamente a nuestro Abogado, nuestro Consejero, y contarle todo al respecto. Cuanto más conozco y confío en el corazón de Dios, más aprendo a practicar esto, momento a momento, día a día. Todavía titubeo y olvido mi verdadera identidad. Pero cada vez, sin falta, el abrazo de mi Padre me está esperando, y la empatía de Jesús reconforta mi corazón, recordándome que soy una hija de Dios empoderada. Y tú también. Nuestro Dios dice: "Ven, aquí hay seguridad para todos tus secretos y luchas". Así que vengo, pongo mi cansada cabeza sobre su cuello y descanso segura, sabiendo que realmente puedo confiar en mi Dios con todo, incluyendo mi sexualidad. ¿Quieres aprender más sobre cómo Dios se preocupa por tu sexualidad?: ●     ¿Qué hago con mis deseos sexuales? ●     Honestamente, ¿cuál es el propósito de tu sexualidad?
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Four Christmas Gifts For My Husband
Christmas shopping for my husband is always a challenge. He's a particular guy. He takes hours to pick out a gym bag and days to choose a watch. On my own, I never get it right. He's also the kind of guy who usually buys what he needs and doesn't wait for Christmas. Although I found something to put under the tree for him, the best gifts are ones I can't wrap. They are intangible things that my husband needs and deeply values. They are not gifts that I can quickly buy, but ones I'm learning to craft throughout the years of our marriage. Here are four gifts I'm learning to give my husband this holiday season:   1. A Wife Who Is OK with Her Body Do these pants make me look fat? I'm getting old—just look at all these wrinkles! Do you ever wish you had a wife with long flowing hair, with long, sexy legs or big breasts? Yep. These are all things I've said to my husband over the years. Of course, I never expected him to respond honestly—I expected him to reassure me that my body is attractive to him. Ironically, by seeking his affirmation, I'm highlighting my flaws. For years, his assurance that he thinks I'm beautiful wasn't enough. Then, one day, it hit me. When my husband compliments my appearance, why do I argue with him? Why can't I just thank God that my husband likes the way I look and leave it at that? Do you know what is really attractive to a man? A woman who is happy with her body and is confident she can please him. Being sexy has more to do with what you think than how you look. So I'm giving my husband the gift of a wife who won't fish for compliments, and one who is grateful for an imperfect body that can still turn him on.   2. A Wife Who Has Permission to Have Fun Life is serious. More than 25 years of marriage has brought some challenges and heartache. Like every other couple, we have bills to pay and problems to solve. Speaking, teaching, and running a ministry requires a lot of my time and energy. But in the midst of all of this, Mike and I haven't lost the art of having fun. I have my husband to thank for most of the laughter and light-heartedness in our home. I'm the serious one. At times, I've resented my husband's fun nature, feeling angry that I was the one who "had to worry" about everything. He would try to get me to laugh and I would scowl. He would sleep soundly at night while I tossed and turned, fretting over what the future might hold. I'm happy to say that resentful worrywart is gone—I've learned to share the burdens of my heart, first with the Lord and then with my husband. And I've learned to delight in Mike's laughter and share in his fun.   3. A Wife Who Recognizes Creative Leadership As you've probably picked up, Mike and I don't fit the biblical stereotype of the man being the "leader" of the house. I'm the driven, goal-oriented planner. Early in our marriage, I would bang my head against the wall when Mike wouldn't lead regular family devotions or project where we would be financially in 10 years. How could I follow his leadership when he wouldn't lead? The truth is, I had a very narrow understanding of leadership. It turns out that my man is a wonderful, creative leader. Over the years, he's led me by teaching me to relax, to pace myself, and to have realistic expectations for our kids. He challenges my faith in God by pointing out how I try to do it all myself rather than trusting. I love the unique ways my husband leads me.   4. A Wife Who Is Done with Fairy Tales Voltaire is credited with this proverb: "The perfect is the enemy of the good." This wisdom definitely applies to marriage, and I've had my head filled with fairy tales over the years of what a perfect marriage should look like. To make matters worse, Christians are prone to spiritualizing the fairy tales: "Just follow God, and He will bring your Prince Charming!" I don't have a fairy tale. I didn't marry Prince Charming, and he certainly didn't find Cinderella. With God's grace, Mike and I have worked to develop a deep friendship, seasons of romance, and a very solid marriage. My appreciation for what we have is directly related to what I compare it to. Much of my career has been spent doing marriage counseling. Some nights after hearing stories of abuse, addictions, and rancorous conflict, I came home and just hugged my husband out of gratitude. That's a far cry from how I treat my husband when I dwell on perfection—when I wish for what we don't have. I think the Devil is in the fairy tales just as much as he is in the horror stories. What a tragedy to miss the beauty of the good because of unrealistic fantasies!   I have no idea how my husband will like the waterproof headphones I'm  putting under the tree for him for Christmas. But I know he'll be very happy with the wife who will lie by his side tonight.   Want to learn more about these gifts? Juli writes more about them in these posts: Being Sexy Has Nothing to Do With Your Body (Juli's blog) Your Marriage Should Be Fun (Juli's blog) Resign As Boss: How to Let Your Husband Lead (Juli's blog)   This blog was originally posted in December 2016. Photo by Marta Filipczyk on Unsplash