When I train communities, parents, and youth about the dangers of human trafficking, the one thing I have to address is sex. Sex trafficking here in the US looks very different then it does internationally and in third world countries. The tactics are different, the culture is different, even the grooming process is different. It is not even close to what you see in the movie Taken. Just like most dads don’t have his “particular set of skills”.
If we are going to empower and educate our youth against the manipulation tactics that traffickers use to lure our youth in, this topic is a must. In trafficking not all prostitution is sex trafficking but the majority of all sex trafficking is through some form of prostitution. Therefore, in this series about how to recapture the heart of our youth and learn how to become the biggest influence in their life, we will also be talking about how to safeguard and educate our youth in the area of sex trafficking. We must talk about the uncomfortable. We must address the elephant in the room. SEX.
So, here we go… let’s talk about sex!
Why is it we rarely talk about sex? Is it a “taboo” topic of conversation in our homes? In my experience we either do not discuss it or we teach our children not to have sex before marriage, and that’s it! No deeper conversations or education other then that. We either think our kids aren’t old enough or that they will just automatically pick up what they need to know. I will admit, talking to your kids about sex can be a very uncomfortable. What I have discovered is that what you don’t talk about can become the most dangerous paths and can cause the most damage. Ignorance is not bliss, it is dangerous.
Let’s talk about “not talking”. Ignorance is one of satan’s greatest tools to steal, kill, and destroy. If you don’t know about something; well, then you just don’t know. Whomever is the first to teach you or shine the light on the subject (whether the information is good or bad, correct or not) usually makes the biggest impact. By not teaching our children that sex is a good healthy part of life and is given it to us by God we are in essence relaying the unspoken message that sex is “dirty”, “wrong”, or “just for fun” depending upon how it is viewed in their immediate sphere of influence. God made us to be sexual creatures, with physical sexual feelings and everything God made is good! Satan has had the ability to twist and corrupt sex to be viewed in every way except that. He has taken something beautiful that God has given and attempted to distort it. How will our kids know what sex is? What it was meant to be? When to expect it? What to do or not do?
If we don’t share with them and teach them about sex and their bodies, someone will.
I’m not saying they need to know the intimate details of your sex life, but they do need to know the biblical truths about marriage, and physical facts about sex. Do you think they aren’t being told what marriage/sex is daily in our society? By friends? Books? The internet? Satan has skewed and warped images of marriage, sex, and family all around to try and steer us into sin, dysfunction, and death. If we don’t set the example and communicate truth and God’s good intention for sex with our children then how will they know? Or learn?
Ignorance and not talking about sex, hiding in shame or embarrassment because of our past is just as dangerous as the enemy framing sex to be a free for all in a Fifty Shades of Gray kind of “freedom”. Sex is going to happen. Your kids are going to have sex. Why are we not preparing them for it? Why are we not helping them manage the natural feelings and molding their hopefulness of fulfillment in that area for when the time is right? Why are we not helping them understand what physically happens to our bodies, emotionally happens with our hearts, and spiritually happens in our souls during sex? By doing this we gain the ability to advise them on the right time for sex and correct context of sex.
If you are not sure what to say, or are just reverting back to your experiences, what you were told at home or through the church, it may be time for you to do your homework on this subject. There are physical, scientific reasons God told us His design is for us to experience sex only within marriage. If we don’t educate ourselves about sex then we are setting ourselves and our kids up for the pendulum swing of hyper sexuality to shameful prudeness or visa-versa.
God formed sex as an intimate physical, emotion, and spiritual exchange between a man and a woman. Many of us want to think that we can just have sex without having the trust, the mental/emotional connection, and the spiritual fusion it was meant to have. This is why people tend to say we are just “having sex” not “making love”. This is not the case. Sex can be looked upon as just an act, but it was meant to be an encounter. There are physiological responses that happen during sex (different for women and men) that chemically connect our hearts and souls to that person. You have no control over this, as much as you want to think you do. The body releases oxytocin during sex which is called, “the love hormone” and it is automatic. You can’t just say: “Body – don’t release that hormone”. It doesn’t work that way. This is a great area to research and understand how God made your body in regards to sex and marriage. Was it meant for reproduction, yes, but not just that! Sex is how we express our intimate divine connection that is already made with your mate. Not what we use in an attempt to get that connection!
So what am I saying in a nutshell? Don’t allow satan to steal the joy of sex because it is a gift that God has given us. Don’t allow satan to deceive us into to being ashamed of it, pretending it shouldn’t and doesn’t happen, or allowing ignorance to open the door for the enemy to have access to your kids.
Don’t allow him to deceive us into thinking that sex is a tool to gain intimacy and control. Don’t allow him to deceive us into thinking that being “free” in our sexuality is actually freedom. Doing what we want, with whomever we want, whenever we want, and however we want brings us different kinds of bondage. Not freedom. Let God define sex through the Bible and research how God made your body to physically and hormonally respond to sex. Then let’s train up our children in the way that they should go in this area. If we don’t educate and empower our youth about sex, then predators are given a wide opening to take advantage of their ignorance and manipulate sex into what they want it to be. Let’s recapture the hearts of our youth and empower them with one love-wrapped conversation at a time.
Today will mark eleven days that I have laid my beautiful mother to rest. So, I figured it may be time to do part 2…even unto Death (click here if you need to read part 1). I wish I could tell you it was painless, it was not. I wish I could tell you I didn’t feel the sting of death or shed tears, but I did. However, I can tell you, it did not crush me.
My grief did not overtake my joy, my mourning did not overtake my hope, and my loss did not overtake her gain. I’m not here to tell you about her death, but I am here to share what I have learned over the last few years. As I have walked and am walking through this grief, I have learned some life lessons that I feel mom would be proud of and would have wanted me to share with others… the process.
Processes aren’t easy. They take time, intentionality, patience and grace; and those are the things you will be required to give to yourself before you can even think about giving them to others. I had to learn how to acknowledge and take care of my emotions and strength. I had to first practice on me, so that I would have it right for them. I had to learn about boundaries and that they are good. You see in my family we didn’t have boundaries…we had walls. Walls that would “protect us” from hurt and from the outside. However, these same walls also kept us isolated … isolated from each other.
I had to learn about healthy boundaries. What was ok to say yes or no to, because yes was my default for family and no was the default for all others. How can I love someone for all that they are, the way they are if I don’t let them past the wall?... the wall that was “safe”. I learned that boundaries are safe zones. They protect me so that I can let people in and allow my love touch them. So that I am not hidden or isolated behind a wall but safe and open to connect and care. I also had to learn how not to be enmeshed with my mother. I didn’t know this was a thing or even what it was, but it was the healthiest change I implemented for me and for her. This gave us the opportunity to remain close while still allowing growth and love to happen.
I have learned over the past few years to view the beauty in all situations. Even the worst of the worst, there is beauty in it. When Harvey came through and wiped my mother’s apartment out, taking everything she owned, it can be hard to see the beauty in that. However, it gave me a month of close time with her living in our home. A time of cracking her corny jokes with her tooth gapped mischievous tilted grin, and waving her strong right hand in the air if we didn’t walk the straight and narrow like she thought we should. Beautiful memories.
Embracing the understanding that grief is a process and not a quick come and go emotion, or a life-long sentence, allowed me to to step into her final days with grace. The practice of choosing beauty and being present before her death allowed me to
focus on her legacy instead of my loss,
her life power instead of her weakness,
and her legacy of humor to be passed down and celebrated instead of only tears.
Tears cleanse the soul but laughter heals it.
So those roses that were so carefully handled and preserved so many years ago are now protected on display as a beautiful memory of what was, and what she has left us to become. Her Legacy is remembered, honored, and continues. There is not a loss of her, only a remembrance of the things that matter.
Here are links to some of the helpful books and reads that walked me through this process, allowing her legacy to out live my loss. Teaching me how to grieve, love, and become an unwalled vessel in life.
The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, and Rising Strong by Brene’ Brown (yes it took all of them lol)
More information about enmeshment
Ever had a job that was left undone?
Over a year ago (I say over because I’m pretty sure it was much longer than a year and I simply can’t recall the real timeline) I began painting my kitchen. A wall cabinet had fallen and broken leaving a huge unpainted white spot on the top of the wall. I couldn’t match the color that was up so I opted for a full color change. It wasn’t a huge color change, really only a tone difference and you really couldn’t even tell because the kitchen was fully put together and decorated in spite of it.
The color I had originally painted worked well for the years I had gold, reds, and richer tones decorating my home. At that time I was changing my decor to a lighter cooler palette and the gold tan just didn’t mesh well, so a new paint was in order. I remember when I went to find the right color tone, it was a challenge! I made sure to use high-quality paint and went to a source that gave me the best options for what I was trying to achieve. It took about 6 samples until I found the one that was not too light, not too dark, not too grey… well you get it.
Through this several day process, I factored in my curtains, living room decor, tiles, lighting, and all that could influence the color. When I found the match I used EVERY SINGLE DROP of that sample, only to cover 1/5 of my kitchen. I immediately went and bought a gallon of the new color to make sure I had everything I needed to finish the job.
The paint I so diligently searched for, tested and tried had life interrupt it and it sat there….. and sat there….why? because the urgency of the transformation was waning. I guess on some level I felt I was “done” because I had gone through the hard work to seek, try, and find what I was needing for the transformation. Even though the huge white spot that initiated the need for color was still showing, in my subconscious, it was “complete” because I had all the tools for the work, yet it remained undone.
Because the color and change in the rest of the room was so subtle, it went by unnoticed by others, even by the people that live here. Most people either didn’t notice or just didn’t say anything if they did. Maybe they didn’t feel it was their place? or maybe the difference wasn’t offensive to their eyes, so they just didn’t “see it”.
How many times have we done this in our lives? Gone through the hard work to change our attitudes, learn leadership skills, or undergo processes that are refining and then just left the application of it “undone”. When we leave processes undone, even though we have gone through the “hard work”, it’s pretty much useless. Even if the change is subtle and unoffensive, it is still incomplete.
So now, I pull everything down(again), making a huge mess(or so it seems) and work on applying the subtle yet noticeable changes that need to be applied.
It will come with ANOTHER process of rolling, trimming, and painting. Being diligent in making sure that I cover the spots I missed that can only be seen in pure sunlight, until completion.
Then I will clean the hidden places, clearing out the cobwebs and dead things that were unseen; to finally finish it up with the “pretty stuff” that everyone sees and admires. These “pretties” may be replaced with something new or may not be in the same place they were before. So that this “undone” transformation can become a new complete transformation due to the application of what was left undone.
I challenge you to stop and take a look at your “comfortable”.
<- (This was where my hug white spot was for years due to the cabinet breaking.) Look and see if you have left anything undone that needs the application process applied. We yearn to learn, strive to grow and understand, yet do we apply what we have worked so hard at?
During this time be vigilant not to just do the hard work but to apply it unto completion.
We must take the time to apply life lessons and just let life happen. Even if they are subtle and no one seems to notice. Take the time to tear apart what seems to be complete and finish a process. Leave nothing left undone and bringing forth the NEW..the beautiful..and the complete.
There is nothing like a full scale physical, mental, and spiritual breakdown to bring you a new perspective. Since my post “When Church Covenant’s don’t cut it” so much has changed. My slow recovery was hit with a spiritual Mac truck dose of God antibiotic called love.
A friend and I went to a women’s conference held close to our home where Luke Holter was speaking. Luke is a prophet that frequents our church, so we love and support his ministry anytime we can. I went hoping to receive but was not sure what or if I would. My expectations were there, yet I didn’t know what to expect. I should have known it was a God set up when I went online to get a “ticket” and the conference was listed as sold out, yet my friend “just happened” to receive a phone call from them that morning about it and was told I already had a spot! Yeah, who actually phone calls anymore? lol
I can honestly say I walked into that place one way and walked out another. A better description would probably be I was rolled in on a stretcher and walked out a new creature. Not only did my whole heart change, my thought process, my demeanor, and my walk, and my worship.
After this collision with Jesus, I had clean up to do. You see I had allowed the enemy for FAR TO LONG to lie to me. I knew they were lies! KNEW IT! Yet, I allowed those lies to hinder the fullness of my walk and obedience. So, let me tell you what some of those lies sounded like. I would hear the Holy Spirit wanting to say or release something in our church, yet I wouldn’t take it to pastor or leadership because I wasn’t sure if they would receive it or feel it was from a “valid source”.. I knew this was not true! The source is the Holy Spirit not me. I knew that the word wasn’t mine and that it was meant to strengthen the body. I KNEW that if they didn’t receive it, I was not held accountable for it. I knew the lies, yet my heart gave into self doubt and questioned even the slightest validity of the lies, so I held back. After repenting…I said NO MAS! (that means no more in Spanish… it’s the only Spanish I know lol). My voice would no longer be silenced by the enemy again…period! I went to every leader that I knew the enemy had used in my mind as a tool for the lies and apologized. I exposed to them the lies that the enemy had been using and ask for their forgiveness. Once you expose the enemy’s lies he can NO LONGER use them against you. The public declaration made them invalid and allowed TRUTH to reign. There was NO WAY I was giving the enemy access to any portion of my mind or heart again.
So when you see me… you will see a new and powerful me. If you go to church with me, you will see me worship like a mad woman. Why? Because I have literally… again… been resurrected and brought back to life! How can you NOT worship with an overflowing heart of thankfulness for that? Your worship should not look like it did before. You have to understand what I have battled, lost, and been rescued from to understand my grateful heart. This wasn’t my just my “salvation” I was worshipping from. I was already “saved”, this was my resurrection! Proving that He will save me again and again and again! He will alway have me, always hold me, and alway WANT me. My radical, insane worship comes from a place of nothingness to a place of fullness.
If I am honest, I didn’t expect Him to save me when I jumped off the cliff; yet He did. I definitely didn’t expect an encounter of instant wholeness… I thought is would be a very slow recovery; yet He performed a miracle. He went ABOVE and BEYOND and did the miraculous for one simple reason….because HE WANTED TO! Because He loves me. So my worship is the only way I know to show Him how thankful I am for the unmerited, unexpected, and extravagant love He has shown me. Step into THAT and tell me how you worship!
I challenge you today, take an account of what the Lord has done for you and in you. DAILY let that stir… and see if your worship doesn’t look a little different then it did.
Our pastor has been doing a series on John 15 and I had a friend casually make a comment (in the middle of church service by the way) about how rich it was, so I added it to my reminder list to read. This morning I was awoken around 2:45 am, with that on my heart. So I started reading. If you want to hear some deep teachings out of this book and not just what is highlighted to me, go listen to this series “Get Connected”. Y’all! It’s SO GOOD!
Anyway, I am sharing this one verse in hopes that it will awaken some things in you. John 15:7 stood out so strong to me. Now, I am sure most church goers have heard and read this verse many time, as I have; however, I’m not sure I have ever really allowed the weight of this promise to come to life in my heart. This verse gives a promise that God guarantees He will do. GUARANTEES! because all of His promises are yes and amen!
“If you abide in me and my words in you”… abide here means… not to part from, to continue to be present, TO BE HELD CONTINUALLY. It also means…. to continue to be, not perish, to last and endure. The finally portion of the meaning… to remain as one, to wait for. WOW! The only thing the Lord wants from you is you. He wants you to be present in a relationship WITH HIM. He wants to hold you continually and for YOU to Hold onto to HIM. He wants you to last and endure WITH HIM through this life. And He wants to remain ONE with YOU! Isn’t that SOOO GOOD! However, that’s not what screamed at me! I know God wants an intimate relationship with me, and I want and pursue that with Him for sure!! So for me, I know I must be with Him and present in the relationship for to live.
“Ask what you wish”… This was the meat for me.
How many of us allow ourself to wish about what we want? After this last season of my life, I’m pretty sure I had no wishes or dreams left. I was just doing and being what I felt God wanted me to do. However… right here… He says WISH! Wish here means… to will, to be determined, to purpose (that i do pretty well). It also means… to desire, to like to do a thing, to be fond of doing, to take delight in, HAVE PLEASURE. Somewhere in life, I stopped wishing for the pleasures. Either thinking it was childish, selfish, or unnecessary. Probably all of the above. I allowed my wishes and dreams to determined and altered by others, disappointments, insecurities, and hurts; instead of by God. I had stopped taking delight and having pleasure in what I was doing, actually If we are being honest; I think I was scared to. But GOD WANTS US TO! this is why He says His burden is easy! He wants us to have a desire, to do things we delight in, have things we wish for. He says, when we are in Him and His WORD in us we should WISH and He promises to give it us. We have to give ourselves permission to wish again.
So often we feel guilty about asking God for the desires of our heart, thinking we don’t want to “burden Him” with that frivolousness. Seriously? Burden God? lol He wants us to dream, wish, and desire! AND He wants us to ASK for those dreams, wishes, and desires! He didn’t say just wish upon a star and hope it comes true! He said stay with me, allow me in you, and then let ME DELIGHT in giving you the desires of your heart.
So, I challenge you today… think about your desire, your BIG DREAMS, and start to wish and ASKING again! Because the next verse says that by doing these things you are Glorifying God… and isn’t that what we all really want do?
I had laid in bed sobbing uncontrollably, to the point I was barely able to stifle back the sound or even breathe. I had wrestled all night with the thoughts of quitting….EVERYTHING. I would not just instantly make an emotionally decision. No, it would be intentional because that is how I have chosen to live my life now. What would that look like? How would that effect things? Or would it? Can I walk away? From ministry? Work? Church? I wanted to just hide and become self-involved because well, it’s easier and safer, than living outside of me. Mediocracy looked more appealing then ever.
In those early morning hours, as the last tear left my heart, I resigned to walking away. I had chosen to JUMP off the mountain side and was allowing the gravity of life to pull me back into me. I had chosen to give into what I can only describe now as spiritual suicide. I reasoned that I will still love and serve my God but that I was going to walk an easier road. HA! Isn’t that what Peter did when he denied Christ? The illusion that I would still love and serve Him but walk away from all that I was serving Him through. If that’s not denying I don’t know what is.
So what does this have to do with covenant and church?
I have grown up in church and under sound biblical teachings. Throughout this time somewhere in my upbringing (physically and spiritually) I had made the theology that I was to be in covenant with select safe people. I have always heard to be careful who you are in covenant with because that’s a bond that cannot and should not be broken, so I was careful. I’ve been taught, make connections with people because you need them, and they need you. Build relationships because people are what matter and stay committed to the path because finishing well is the goal. All of this is true. However, in this midnight hour of my life, the Lord clarified His teachings into a deeper sense of understanding.
You see, I had jumped….walked away… but HE did not. I was looking for a person that I was in covenant with to be there in my darkest time, I mean isn’t that a part of building relationships? When you are committed to the same God, same service? Shouldn’t those people be there in times like this? My expectations of the relationships and commitments to do life with people, had failed me completely. Not the people, my expectations. Maybe these people were busy doing life themselves? Maybe they were going through their own dark times?
Relationships can be withdrawn from.. can change… will change. Commitments come and go. New ones added, old ones put away. Covenants made with people… by people… broken.
At the moment I had resigned to walk away from it all, I received a text from an old friend, Elise. A friend that if you had asked me if I was in covenant with her, I would have hesitated to answer. Yes, we were close friends over time but I hadn’t necessarily done life with her like I had others, the ones I felt I was in covenant with. She was simply reaching out and sending me some encouraging kind words, not even really know knowing what was fully going on inside me. Then the Holy Spirit showed me this picture.
This time a new stream of tears flowed. Tears of thankfulness that He didn’t let me continue to fall. Thankfulness that He brought the right person there that I would allow in to help draw me back to Him through covenant. The rope in the picture IS HIS COVENANT that He made with me and I with Him. The reason Elise was on the other end? Because she had made the same covenant with HIM. It’s not the people that keep you connected, it’s the covenant. Just as he has saved me when I was a sinner and living a life of hell, His love covenant saved me again, differently. Even though people may walk away from relationships, commitments, and covenants made (like I did in this moment), Jesus WILL NOT and DID NOT.
For His LOVE covenant securely wrapped me up and held me from death. It was strong and unfailing even when I was weak and fallen.
Over the next week Elise helped slowly, and gently draw me closer to safety. I sent her this pic jokingly, little did I know how true it really was. You see her help didn’t come from a platform, it was personal (even though a platform has helped many other times). The connection and relationship was there and built. The commitment made by her was to GOD not to me. That’s why we make connections, build relationships and commit to the walk. Because at some point during this faith walk you will find yourself at one end of the rope or the other and the only thing holding is the covenant Christ made with you and for you.
Elise moved at a Spirit-led pace, and was truly a Faith coach to me during this time. She didn’t hold onto me, she held onto to HIM, while HE held me. Then when the time was right, she helped bring me safely back on the solid rock I had jumped from.
I told Elise the other day, this post would be tough. Is it wrong that I secretly hope no one reads it? The openness and transparency right now feels dangerous to me. If it were about me, my weaknesses, or failures it would be. But it’s not. This post is about Him and His greatness. Proof that HIS COVENANT with us reaches us and saves us when no one else can! Elise could not have reached me (I was too far gone), but the covenant I had made with Christ and that He made for me is limitless and unbreakable. It is His covenant that saves us over and over. My theology on church covenants, relationships, and commitments were shallow in thinking because they were connected to people. When the truth is…
The covenant Christ made with you through His blood is the only one that can never be broken and can always reach you. You may walk away, but He never will. He will always provide a safeline to draw you back to Him.