My New Day TV Segment: Shame

Shame has a nasty way of undermining sexual intimacy. In this segment – the first of a three-part series with My New Day TV – I talk about what shame is, how we can recognize it and how we can heal it so that we can experience true freedom.

Why I Couldn’t Get Undressed on My Wedding Night (Emily T. Wierenga)

I met Emily when I was co-hosting The Drew Marshall Show in July. She was speaking on the hang-ups that we, as women, have with our bodies, and I found her insight both powerful and freeing. Our conversation at dinner later that night only reinforced my impression that she is truly an amazing woman with a much needed ministry. I hope you enjoy her post.

We arrived late with a bottle of wine and I stepped on the back of my wedding dress as we crossed the threshold.

I didn’t see anything but the bed, with its nicely folded corners and my new husband already in his boxers and grabbing us glasses from the kitchen cupboard.

I leaned against the wall, drinking the white, in white, and we were 23-year-old virgins who’d never seen each other naked, had only felt each other’s skin and I couldn’t unzip my dress.

I stalled, pulling out my bobby pins and he helped me, and we made a nice little pile of pins and then he asked if he could help me with my zipper.

And I asked him if he wanted another glass of wine.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to make love with him.

It’s that I didn’t want him to see me. All of me.

Not because I didn’t trust him, but because I didn’t like myself.

I didn’t like my skin and I thought maybe if we got the room dark enough first and we could do that every night, till death do us part, and he’d never see my flat chest or my wide hips or my pear shaped body.

I ended up slipping the dress around my ankles and then quickly sliding beneath the sheet and it’s taken me 10 years to learn how to walk into the bedroom naked, with the lights on. To look my husband in the eye, standing there in all of my skin, my stomach stretched with marks from two sons and my chest even flatter than it was before.

I am not beautiful because of my skin, nor because of my husband, nor because of my children, but because of my heritage as Abba’s creation.

But even though I was raised in the church, as a pastor’s daughter, who was baptized by the age of eight and went to youth group and memorized Scripture, I didn’t know that womanhood was something to be embraced. I didn’t know there were two different kinds of pride—a hubris kind of pride, which is a lifting up of the soul in defiance of God—and then, the other. The good kind of pride. The kind that Isak Dinesen defines in her book, Out of Africa:

Pride is faith in the idea that God had when he made us. A proud man is conscious of the idea, and aspires to realize it. He does not strive towards a happiness, or comfort, which may be irrelevant to God’s idea of him. His success is the idea of God, successfully carried through, and he is in love with his destiny.

I thought I was supposed to feel ashamed of my female curves. Of my body.

My mum was insecure and my dad, emotionally absent, so as children, we all battled low self-esteem. We weren’t allowed to watch The Little Mermaid because she had a bare stomach and Mum would get embarrassed if Dad caught her changing. I would be mortified if Dad saw my bra hanging on the clothesline. We thought we needed to be hidden away. Fig leaves, and such.

But Jesus came to change all that.

Jesus came so that shame would go. Jesus came, so that we could know, again, the full idea God had for us when he created us.

I am learning what it means to be a woman —

What it means to embrace all of my femininity and to see it as a loving calling. To know the difference between love of self, and loving myself, and to treat myself as tenderly as I would a friend.

My friend, Celeste Steele-Perez, puts it this way: “As I meditate on what it means to be a woman, I marvel. I feel strong… I celebrate every curvy nuance of the feminine mystique. The memory of birthing makes my blood rush with the knowledge that … I, too, am made in God’s image!”

About the Guest Author:
Emily T. Wierenga is an award-winning journalist, artist, and the author of four books.

She is a columnist for the Christian Courier and Prodigal Magazine, and a paid contributor to The High Calling. In addition to being associate editor, ghostwriter, copy editor, and staff writer, Wierenga has written for Christianity Today (Kyria), Christian Week, Faith Today, Adbusters, Geez, The Anglican Planet, Focus on the Family, Christian Courier, and In Touch. Emily speaks regularly across the continent at women’s retreats, universities, churches and conferences, about her journey with anorexia nervosa.

For more info, please visit www.emilywierenga.com. Find her on Twitter or Facebook.
Tyler Knott Gregson pic

Tyler Knott Gregson: Word Alchemist

Today I want to do something a bit out of the ordinary for me. I want to highlight someone whose work I have grown to appreciate. I have had guest bloggers on this site before and will have them again (the delightful Emily T. Wierenga is sharing her story in November), but I don’t actually know this person except by his posts on Twitter.

Allow me to explain why I think his work is important. In the introduction of my book, I wrote,

“There is a rawness to sexuality – it entails body parts and fluids and technique. There is also a softness – conversations and whispers and secrets between a husband and wife. One without the other creates imbalance. And yet, when the two come together – the joining of the science and art of sexual intimacy – it is the most powerful combination known to humankind.”

I can write and speak about the “rawness” of sexuality all day long without ever blushing – that is my home turf, and I am extremely comfortable there. However, when it comes to discussing the “softness,” I still have a lot to learn. Sometimes the words are hard to find. The world of poetry and romantic expressions eludes me unless I am intentional in seeking it out. And yet, I believe it is important.

Tyler Knott Gregson moves comfortably and fluidly in this world. He is a poet, a photographer, an artist and a word alchemist (seriously, how cool is word alchemist?!). His poetry always catches me a bit off-guard and makes me reflect – which is why I like it so much. Here is one of my favourites:

If you need a dose of romantic and moving poetry in your life, I highly recommend you follow this guy. Here is his Twitter feed.

 

What Makes You Loveable?

Believe it or not, I don’t actually talk about sex all the time with my clients. (I know that confessing this destroys the image of a sex coach to varying degrees with people.) Very often, we will delve into the depths of their relationships – why they make the choices they make, why they feel the way they do, and what they believe about themselves. And it always makes me sad when the person on the other side of the Skype screen confesses that she doesn’t really know why she is worthy of being in a relationship – what makes her loveable.

I asked a client recently, “What amazing attributes do you have to offer your partner, just because you are you? How do you make this relationship great?” He didn’t have an answer. Another client said, “What do you mean by loveable? I don’t even know what that means.”

What do you think makes you worthy of love? Why would, why should, how could people love you?

Answering these questions taps into the core of our being, of whether – in the quiet moments when we are alone with our private thoughts – we actually believe that we are loveable.

When we fail to see our own value, it becomes far to easy to put up walls around ourselves to protect our hearts from being hurt…after all, once your partner finally sees you for what you truly are – unloveable – they will push you away or begrudgingly tolerate your existence. But this very act of refusing to be vulnerable undermines the intimacy we could have had if we had grasped a hold of our value.

If you don’t know why you are worthy of love and belonging – why you are loveable – then I would encourage you to take some time to think about it. If you are struggling to come up with answers, then summon up the courage to ask the people closest to you – your spouse, best friend, siblings or parents – and see what they have to say. They probably know exactly why you are loveable. Maybe it’s time for you to believe it too.

What You Can Learn from a One-Night Stand

One of the reoccurring complaints that I hear in my coaching practice is that clients (men and women alike) are discontent with the sex they are having with their spouses. As I probe to find out why they are unhappy, I often discover the core problem is that they struggle to communicate their sexual needs and wishes clearly. They are afraid of being open and vulnerable because they fear they will be rejected, shamed or misunderstood. The irony, of course, is that in refusing to reveal themselves fully, they simply end up feeling empty and alone because their spouses have no clue what they want, much less how to meet those needs. As it turns out, no matter how well we think we know each other, we really aren’t mind readers.

So, when I ran across Jazmine Hughes’ article, My One Night Stand Became My Long-Term Boyfriend, I thought I would share it with you. Let me be clear – I am not advocating one-night stands, but I think she makes a great point about the openness needed to cultivate truly good sex – something that we should all strive for in marriage. Here is a blurb from the post:

[During a one-night stand] you’re also totally open about yourself sexually. Again, it’s not someone you like or that you’re really invested in, so you’re not afraid to ask for exactly what you want: harder, slower, on top of the covers with the lights off and no talking. You’re more likely to suggest something new if you’re not worried about him thinking that it’s weird, because you don’t think you’ll ever see him again.

Of course, saying what we want doesn’t guarantee that our partners will agree to give it to us. But we stand a much better chance than if we remain silent. Overall, learning to speak up and say what we really want leads to much richer sex lives…even when it’s with someone you will see again.

Kevin Breel’s TED Talk on Depression

I was chatting with a client about depression just this week and then stumbled across this amazing TED Talk. As Breel says, “we are so accepting of any body part breaking down except for our brains…and that is ignorance.” All of us have people in our lives who battle this disease, and this talk helps us recognize the stigma around it. May you glean new insight!

 

Happy Camper Update (Pitbull Concert)

As I mentioned in a previous post, Eric bought me tickets to Pitbull just to make me happy. Last night we went to the concert. As we left the house Eric tweeted “Happy Camper Date is a go. #Ke$ha #Pitbull #facepalm” – showing exactly how much of a Happy Camper Date this was!

I am not going to lie – we felt a bit out of place. I can say with complete certainty that Eric was the only guy in the place wearing cowboy boots (of course that was at my request cause he is HOT when he wears his cowboy boots), and evidently I was wearing far too much clothing. I obviously missed the memo that as a female concert attendee I was supposed to wear shorts that were cut off before the bottom of the back pocket ended, squeeze a thin, golden piece of elastic around my head and pretend it was a headband and spray copious amounts of glitter on my highly visible chest.

When we got to our seats I was very relieved to find that we weren’t the oldest people there…until I realized that all the other old people were merely accompanying teenage daughters who were screaming for Ke$ha while their parents focused on their Smartphones and nodded knowingly to their peers when they made eye contact. A couple of them smiled at us like we were the smart ones to have gotten seats well away from our teenage offspring. (Full disclosure – I smiled back like it was true, so they didn’t think less of me…) Of course that façade was ripped away the moment Pitbull took the stage and I channeled everything I had learned in the last 3 years of hip-hop dance lessons into the 18”x18” square of floor space allotted to me in front of my seat. To be honest, I never took my eyes off the stage to see if the parents I had feigned solidarity with were staring at me like some kind of traitor. I just assumed they gave in and danced too.

Despite Ke$ha’s song proclaiming otherwise, the party didn’t start until Pitbull walked in. He was the consummate entertainer – never allowing the audience to get bored, disengage or sit down during the entire time he was on stage. He never stopped moving (that guy can dance!), and he had a killer smile that made frequent appearances. He genuinely seemed like he was having fun, and made it a point to thank his fans profusely throughout the performance.

As we left, Eric tweeted that he was actually glad he came. Part of me wants that to be because he enjoyed Pitbull as much as I did. Another part of me wants it to be because of my dancing. Either way is really fine with me though.

All in all, I can say that I am a bigger fan of Pitbull than ever before, and the Happy Camper Date was a hit. And I am not scared about what Eric will pick when it’s his turn to choose the Happy Camper Date.

No really.

Seriously.

I’m not.

Ok, maybe a little.