Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What Makes A Woman Good?

I wanted to introduce a little mini-blog I've started over on Tumblr. It's not meant to be a secondary blog of mine, but rather a hub for the gems the pass in and out of my life.

Between running Good Women Project and writing here on my blog, I get to share and hear so many stories. Sometimes women ask questions, and sometimes I have the answers. And sometimes I just need to bookmark incredible things that I want to be shared with everyone.

And with that introduction, I'd love for you to bookmark or follow me if you're on Tumblr.

Today I answered an anonymous question that I wanted to post here:

"Lauren - - I love reading the posts on your blog as well as The Good Women Project. I was wondering if you could touch on this term "good" in a little more detail. What does "good" mean for women who see themselves outside the landscape of purity? I've read some comments recently on posts that seem to see this word as isolating and judgmental - - for example, that somehow if they have had premarital sex they must not be "good women." Any thoughts?"

Answer: Ooo my heart. A year and a half ago I was out behind a post-hardcore/metal venue with a dozen sweaty musicians praying over me as I stood in shock while my world imploded on me. It was one of those moments where time stops and you try to figure out how you ended up here. Needing this. In that moment, I realized that I no longer had any hope for being good. I no longer saw myself as good. And no one else did either. I had finally achieved what a sick part of me had always wanted - to be just like everyone else.

And I had lost all respect for myself.

I grew up as “the good girl.” And yes, you are right. The traditional definition of ‘good girl’ as defined by the church alludes primarily to her purity. Which I no longer had. When I lost ‘my purity’ (I’d argue can happen without physically having sex - but in a mental/emotional capacity), I still wanted to be the good girl, but I lost a lot of respect for myself. I also was having an inner battle: The kind of good that I had grown up being was not the kind of good I wanted to be. The old kind of good came from following the rules, and I failed. I needed a kind of good that came from love, that gave life and not death.

I was somewhere between a girl and a woman, and I knew for a fact I was no longer a girl, but I could in no way call myself a good woman. And I had no idea what even defined a good woman. I just knew I wasn’t it. But it’s interesting that even Jesus stood up against a man who asked Him how to be good. Jesus said, “Why do you call me good?! No one is good, only God alone.” (Luke 18:19)

“Good” is not a condition that is defined or un-defined by your past, your history, your church attendance, your appearance, or even your current sex life. I have learned that “good” is the position of your heart towards Jesus and your future, and in turn is the actual condition of your heart. We can live life with or without Jesus, and apart from him, we have no hope of ever being good - because He himself is our Righteousness. (II Corinthians 5:21)

”Good” is a woman who admits that she cannot be good on her own, so she pursues Jesus, because through him her life is redeemed and she finds life and love. ”Good” is choosing to believe you have value because Jesus said you do. “Good” is having hope in your future again because God makes all things new, and gives every minute, intricate detail of your past a purpose again. “Good” is learning to start over again and hold God’s hand while you walk and strive to understand the purpose of his commands while you obey them with his help.

In that moment behind the venue, I desperately wanted to be a good woman.

And in all humility, a year and a half later, I can say that I am. Not because I no longer make mistakes, but because I’ve given the whole of my heart and life over to Jesus again. Not because I am the poster child for a Perfect Woman or Perfect Wife, but because I have dug my heels in and allowed God to define my value, my worth and my future. And I’ve fought to keep the position of my heart turned towards Jesus and my future.

I am good again because I’ve started trying again, and trying with the right Person.

- - -

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Monday, October 24, 2011

I Don't Have To Be A Slut To Be Sexually Confident

I have a little confession to make. While I've been submersed in the topic of sex and dating over at Good Woman Project and here on my blog, I've forgotten the world of sex as I knew it a year ago.

I understand that this month I've spent most of my time discussing sex with:

1) my husband, who used to be addicted to porn, and now talks on how damaging porn is;
2) Ally Spotts and her fiance Darrell, two awesomely attractive and super cool Jesus-lovers who write about sex and dating;
3) my 20-something friend Haley who is outrageously gifted in the relationship-advice/purpose-of-sex department;
4) young Christian girls in bible studies; and
4) sifting through countless stories from women on how casual sex broke them.

I am blessed to be a part of a movement of men and women who are willing and excited to talk openly on sex the right way. A movement that is unafraid to say, "the traditional church hasn't handled it as well as it should," and also "the world hasn't handled it well at all."

But this week, I've read some articles that have shocked me out of my sexy-just-married-lingerie and honestly, made me a little bit angry that I'd forgotten WHY I started talking about sex in the first place.

Women are giving up on being the good woman they've been striving towards, because they've stopped believing the good men are out there.

Translated: Women are embracing sex before marriage because they've stopped believing there are men who will wait for them.

No, seriously. It's true. It's why I gave in to sex, and it's why I slept with men I didn't even pretend to love. I developed an, "I deserve this, because everyone else is doing it" attitude. The men that cheated on me, left me for other women, left pornography open on their laptops, or simply dated women that slept around angered me into my own "I don't care" behavior. Men were proving to me that sex was the most important part of life, and I should be living that way too. Sex first, questions after. I stopped believing I could find a man who could prove that he meant it when he said I was beautiful and would stick around forever. If men were going to have sex any way they wanted it, when they wanted it, I was going to have it too, damn it.

Sex has become a selfish thing, and the current "me" has become more important than the future "we." This is why sex outside of marriage is self destructive.

And what I've been reading this week is re-confirming that this is why women are still embracing and manifesting their sexuality in all the wrong ways.

AskMen and So Feminine did polls this year on promiscuity. The AskMen survey that revealed 70% of men find women promiscuous between 5 and 10 partners, while the So Feminine survey reveals 55% of women find men promiscuous somewhere between their 20th and 50th partner. Only 15% of women find men with 10 sexual partners promiscuous.

Marrie Lobel "sort of" reviewed these polls in her "Promiscuous Women" post in a rant about her self-admitted out of control yet perfectly acceptable sex life, and said: "It's this perception of what makes a 'good' woman that keeps women from being equal to men. It's in women's nature to want to be accepted and thought of as worthy and good. This survey, I'm afraid, will not only set a precedent for what men think a good woman should be, but box women into living life according to what others dictate as appropriate. Well, fuck society. If I am considered a wanton woman because I have slept around with more men than another man is comfortable with, then it is his loss."

Classy, Marrie. However, you do present a problem that demands at least a hypothetical solution.

Apparently, women still aren't equal in your eyes. Not because of our civil rights or because we now make up 52% of the workforce, but because we are attempting to have as much sex as we want outside of marriage and men are thinking less of us for it.

Hypothetical solution? Women need to be averaging as many sexual partners as men, and men need to GTF over it.

The problem with this solution is actually hinted at in your own words: "Men express their desire to be with a sexually confident woman, but find her promiscuous at 5 partners."

Marrie, I'm going to tell you a little secret.

"Sexually confident" stems from one of two things. Either from a woman who is insecure in her identity and therefore overcompensates in her sexuality to find confidence somewhere, OR is confident in her identity, in which case it carries over into her sexuality. And men know this.

Men are attracted to confident women. Men are attracted to a woman's sexuality. But good men are not looking for insecure women who find their identity in their sexuality.

Marrie, I'm going to give you some words of advice, woman to woman:

Don't read the polls to determine how you should be finding your identity and living out your sex life.

Don't decide whether or not you'll find a good man based on a statistical study.

Don't make sex about yourself just because you haven't found a man who makes it about your loving commitment to one another.

Don't get angry that men still desire women who are confident enough to share her sexuality with one man that deserves it.

Don't play the numbers game with your heart just because a poll shows you the world is playing a numbers game with their body.

Don't stop believing that there is a man out there who will protect your identity before he participates in your sexuality.

And please, for the sake of all relationships everywhere, please don't believe the lie that you must be sexually promiscuous in order to be sexually confident.

I'd like to end with words from an anonymous good man who commented on Marrie's post:

"To me, anyone that has had many casual sexual encounters has a high likelyhood of having damaged their ability to respect sex as part of a committed relationship. I very deeply tie sex and love together, and frankly I don’t believe someone that has used sex for casual pleasure can feel the same as I do on the subject. I would gladly give up “wild, kinky, crazy” sex to be with someone that feels as I do. Unfortunately, there just aren’t many women left that haven’t ridden the merry-go-round of casual sex, which means I either suck it up and settle for less than I want, or go without a committed relationship."

PS. Can I just re-phrase "sex out of marriage" as "sex without committed, unconditional love" once and for all, please? Maybe then we'd realize that we're not breaking a rule someone else set, we're actually harming ourselves.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Supplemental Saviors, And My Disappointment In Myself.

I am disappointed with myself.

I am disappointed that I have tried to find supplemental saviors.

People ask how I did it. Did what? I want to ask.

How you overcame your past. What was done to you, and what you did to others; to yourself. The grief that you were dealt, and the grief you caused.

I listen to their perception, and begin to think I am an exception.

I listen to them search for an answer more tangible, more attainable, more controllable than Jesus.

And I begin to comb through my healing, dig through my heart, sift through the hard find things easier than Jesus.

Some days I find nothing. Some days, empty things that bear partial witness to a whole truth.

The empty things, the whispers-of-truth things, the supplemental saviors...they taunt me with their checks in boxes and say, "See? We have made you whole. We have filled you. We helped you overcome."

But still, their mercies begin and end with the front and back of their covers. Their mercies fill and are contained by the box for the checkmark.

And I am a living, dying creature. I need mercies every morning. New ones. For the new death, the new hurt, the new sin.

So I rally my books, my counselors, my friends, my pastors, my families, my communities, my epiphanies, my curriculum, my antidepressants, my better diets, my therapists, my mentors, my time that passes, my supplemental saviors, and I cry out: "APART FROM HIM WE CAN DO NOTHING."

Apart from Jesus, I can do nothing.

I have done nothing. I have overcome nothing. I have healed nothing. I have won nothing. Rather, I have come to the end of myself, and found a Savior who needs no supplement. A Savior who has done and is doing and will do it all.

For he has sworn it across the heavens, "It is FINISHED."

We have not believed.

Death wrecked my heart, my family, my hope. Jesus killed it off before it killed me utterly, and gave me a new life.

There is no healing or comfort that can be attained by your adding. Only by emptying everything you are, and filling it with everything He is.

I am not the exception. You are not the exception. We have inside us the hope of all eternity, a seal upon our hearts, because He was the exception in our behalf.

Lord, help us with our unbelief.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Resources For The Recovering Legalist (Or Homeschooled Kid.)

After I wrote A Letter To My 18 Year Old Self and shared a little of my ultra-sheltered, conservative upbringing, I've received a lot of emails asking what books I recommend reading.

So, I'm working on putting together a little resource list for each of you dear hearts. It's by no means complete, but a core selection of reading material that helped me move out of one world into another. If you have something to add to this list, PLEASE do! Leave it in the comments.

Please, please do not let money come in between you and these books. Rent them at the library, or find them through Or carve out time in your week to go sit at Barnes & Noble and read them on the floor. That's how I read most of them.

Waking The Dead: The Glory of a Heart Fully Alive - John Eldredge :::::: "The story of your life is the story of a long and brutal assault on your heart, by the one who knows what you could be, and fears it." Enough said. Read it.

Sex God - by Rob Bell :::::: We never talked about sex. Ever. It was dirty, sinful, wrong. I recommend this book to every person regardless of their past or present.

Captivating - Staci Eldredge :::::: READ. I was the ugly duckling growing up. On top of wearing "homeschooler clothes," I was gripped with devastating insecurity through middle school and high school. I read this when I was 18, and thank God I did. Girls, you are beautiful. And you were meant to be beautiful. It's OKAY to be beautiful.

Sex & The Soul Of A Woman - Paula Rinehart :::::: Girls, this is a must-read. Even if you haven't had sex. You are an absolute gift to man. Paula writes about sex and heart-stuff in a way that only a woman can.

Ragamuffin Gospel - Brennan Manning :::::: The gospel is simple. The church has complicated it. Get it un-complicated.

Think Differently, Live Differently - Bob Hamp :::::: This book will change the way you view absolutely everything. It's no longer about doing more right, more good. It's about knowing that "more right, more good" won't get you any closer to the life Jesus created for you. It's about living from the Tree of Life, not from the branch of Good on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

What's So Amazing About Grace - Phillip Yancey :::::: Get this, or at least get the Visual Edition for starters. Weeks after I ran out and away from my family, I probably wouldn't have read anything other than the super-awesome visual edition. This book showed me, for the first time, that Jesus loved me. No matter what. And that all of us were sinners, and equally dirty. No matter what.

Longing For Daddy: Healing From The Pain Of An Absent or Emotionally Distant Father - Monique Robinson :::::: I had a close relationship with my dad the majority of my life, but not so much in high school. And I haven't had an eye-to-eye conversation with him in six years. No matter where you are in your relationship with your dad, this book helps you look at fathers (and your heart) the way God does.

Boundaries: When To Say Yes, How To Say No - Cloud & Townsend :::::: This book is important for every single person, and absolutely necessary for someone who grew up in an controlling or manipulative environment. I am a people pleaser, I can't say no, I over-commit, & I get irrationally emotionally involved. For the first time in my life, I know it's okay to do what I want with my life.

The Hidden Heart* - Bob Hamp :::::: The idea that "the heart is deceitful above all else" and must be ignored and smothered, is something that has been grossly mis-interpreted in a lot of conservative Christian circles. I was racked with guilt and ended up severely depressed because of it. Read Bob's brief *blog post on how you are SUPPOSED to treat your heart.

Radical - David Platt :::::: The gospel in its simplest form. Learn to live how Jesus lived.

Homeschool Blindspots* - Reb Bradley :::::: If you are planning on homeschooling, or are homeschooling, read this *blog post. Also, if you were homeschooled, this might set you free a bit from your parents mistakes, and help you measure out grace where it is needed.

Raised Right: How I Untangled My Faith From Politics - Alisa Harris :::::: If you were raised in a very political-oriented family like I was, read this.

A Tale Of Three Kings: A Study In Brokenness - Gene Edwards :::::: Very, very short book. If you've lost family members, moved away, or gone through any sort of grief - read it.

Redeeming Love - Francine Rivers :::::: This is a pretty hefty novel (yes! novel!) about a prostitute. This book I hid in my room when I was 17, and it pulled at my heart strings just enough to give me the courage to leave home and seek out a God who was this loving, this forgiving, of a woman He dearly treasured.

Blog Posts I've written on my experiences:

A New Definition Of Love
How To Deal With Pain
Letter To The Girl Without A Father
Grief, Lightning Storms, & A Broken Spirit
Jesus Will Change You
When Christianity Says You Aren't Enough
Love Was The Plan

Very important note:

At the end of the day, no book or author is going to heal your heart. If you're human, chances are you've undergone heartbreak, heartache, or trauma. On top of being born broken. There are no words better than God's, no love closer than Jesus's, and no friendship closer than the men and women who are called your brothers and sisters in Christ. If you're a recovering legalist, or don't know much about God, take a little break from the rest of the Bible and spend significant time reading just Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Get to know Jesus first. We come to God through him, and we begin to live our new created lives through him.

If you're having trouble reconciling the love of Jesus to the harshness of God that you used to know, read Hosea, Jeremiah, and Isaiah. Learn that He has written His words on your heart, and will never forsake you or be angry with you again. Hear that He has forgotten your mistakes completely. He has bound you up your wounds in loving kindness. God has fought in your defense since the day He created you. You are safe, and He is NOT disappointed.

- - -

Were you raised in a too-conservative home? Homeschooled? Dealt with severe loss or grief? Have a past you've needed recovery from? Broken relationships with family?

What books do you recommend? PLEASE share them in the comments.