Christmas Carol Favorite

I have a favorite Christmas carol – night-clouds-summer-trees

I am not sure when it became my favorite, but it is something that moves me

emotionally…I get teary and reflective

physically…I find myself lightly swaying.

O Holy night, the stars are brightly shining

I love the stars, the silence of night time, the stopping of a world that seems to constantly be in motion and often without any real meaning to that motion.

It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth

This past year has been a year of experiencing the birth of my first grandchild, while the birth of my children changed my life forever, this birth forever changed my view of forever.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining

The world that I wake up to every morning is in turmoil and seeking to make sense of what is – dare I say – senseless, yet we keep “pining” forward (I think I like the word pining rather than sin, but honestly I think sin is about a yearning for something different).

Til He appeared and the soul felt it’s worth

And here is the line that gets me every time and causes me to get teary and begin swaying, my soul is meant to feel it’s worth. My soul is meant to be weighty, my soul is both heavy and light, my soul is ever in motion longing to discover and become more ALIVE – I was made this way and it is not something I need to hide or manage, I must feel my soul’s worth

AND

in turn feel

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices

because hope truly is a thrill, a surge, an itch, a hunger and it makes me want to stand up and shout – hell no, the world doesn’t get to define the goodness of God. 

because

yonder breaks a new and glorious morn

and yes there are times I will fall on my knees, times I will dance in the face of evil, times I will weep in the sorrow of loss, times I will burst into laughter because I

hear the angel voices

declaring that this night, this day, this season of life is truly divine because at the heart and core of my crafted soul is a knowing that

in His Name, all oppression shall cease

not because ceasing is ending something, but instead ceasing is about us pausing and remembering that

Oh Holy night, the stars are brightly shining 

because there is no place that God is not and there is nothing that God will not partake in when it relates to us, because we ARE created to bear the image of God.

So yes I do have a favorite Christmas carol, and if you share space with me I might shed a few tears and sway a bit off beat when this song comes on, but know this is me learning to listen to what moves me to remember and claim that

holy nights are divine 

if we have ears to hear.

Merry Christmas

Love That Costs Us Something

What is my focus on?

We all have that one person. The person we would deliver a well-deserved, serves-you-right smack across the face in a heartbeat if the opportunity presented itself. It is in the moment when I want to get real and give that person exactly what their behavior REALLY deserves that I must come to the realization that my focus is not on the other person, but on myself.

It’s hard to admit, but sometimes I find myself in this place.

Life would be so much easier if we could see one another without judgement or competition despite our differences. More than I know, both judgement and competition rob me from truly seeing other people and loving them well.

When I am focused on someone else’s behavior, the person who is on center stage is not the person who is in the “wrong” but me, myself, and I.

Derek Tasker in his book “An Exploration into God” writes:

“I wonder what would happen if I treated everyone like I was in love with them. Whether I like them or not, whether they respond or not, and no matter what they say or do to me. Even if I see things in them which are ugly, twisted, petty, cruel, vain, deceitful, and indifferent – what if I just accepted all that and turned my attention to some small, weak, tender, and hidden part? What if I kept my eyes on that until it shined like a beam of light, like a bonfire I can warm my hands by and trust it to burn away all the waste – which was never my business to meddle with.”

Can anyone love like this?

This kind of love looks dangerous. It takes your breath away. Who could love like this? Who would ever risk loving like this? Love like that would place everything about myself at risk. All of my desires and hopes and dreams would be placed on the back burner, and that would not be fair… would it? Everything inside of me says, “NO! Why should I forgive that person? They don’t deserve it – and it would not be fair to me if I forgave them.”

Love like this is not cheap – not cheap at all because it would cost us everything. As I reflect on Easter Sunday and Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross, I am reminded of his love. His love that cost him everything, all to forgive us. His focus was not himself and the wrongs we have committed against him – but only on his deep love for us.

God, give me the desire to love like you do.

~ becky

 

 

Teen Boys and Teen Girls And What Makes Their Brains So Very Different

The challenge of parenting teenagers

Parenting teenagers can be challenging, and unfortunately, there’s not a quick, fix-all formula for parenting your unique teen the “right way”. The physical differences between men and women are pretty obvious, but the differences in emotional development during puberty, often referred to as “the awkward stage,” stand in stark contrast. When I look at gender differences in the brain during teen years, I can’t help but say, “really God, what are you thinking?!

Teen boys: how much testosterone can they take?

When testosterone is being released into a teenage boy, his body is altering and expanding structurally. This tsunami of testosterone is coursing through his body stretching vocal cords, enlarging the testicles, thickening and lengthening the penis, increasing hair follicle growth in new places, activating muscle and bone growth, and causing the sexual-pursuit circuits to become twice as large as a girl’s. That’s a massive amount of restructuring!

Louanne Brizendine, M.D. puts it this way:

“If testosterone were beer, a nine-year-old boy would get the equivalent of about one cup a day…by age fifteen, it would be equal to two gallons a day.”

A 15-year-old boy is daily “intoxicated” by the amount of testosterone his body is producing—no wonder our teenage boys need so much sleep! Their bodies are working hard to receive the changes coursing through them.

Teen girls: why do they have so many words?

Like testosterone changes a boy’s body, estrogen changes the structure of a teenage girl’s body. At the core, this influx of estrogen is an unfolding of the ancient biological manual embedded in every woman to become sexually desirable. This rewiring is why humankind has continued to create and the continuation of life is hinged upon this process.

As estrogen makes its way through a teenage girl’s body, breasts begin to appear, emotions are heightened, awareness of the perception of others is increased, pubic hair begins to grow, and a monthly surge of estrogen-progesterone causes menstrual bleeding to begin.

Teen girls often have a lot of words and the amazing ability to talk all day (and sometimes all night) with close friends. As a girl develops, language and speech often activate the pleasure centers in their brain. This is different from a boy’s brain, where language and speech do not produce the same effects. During teen years, a girl’s language area of her brain can be twice as large as a teen boy’s.

What can these differences teach us about God?

While the knowledge of these differences is important, I believe we still need to address important questions like: how do we view differences? Do we value these things as good and designed by our Creator with love?

As a mother who has successfully made it to the other end of those parenting-teen years, I know the teenage years can be filled with many frustrations. However, I believe these years are vital in exploring the mystery of man, the mystery of woman, and the mystery of God.

When we make space to allow these male and female differences in our teens to show us the creative hand of God, we are given the chance to marvel at the depth of what we have yet to discover.

~ becky

How To Have Little One-minute Sex Talks With Your Little Ones

How do I talk to my little one about sex?

So often, parents of young children come to me with their fears surrounding the question: how do I even begin to explain sex to my young children?! Do I need to? What do I do?!

One of the very best parts about this is it means that I get to hear a lot of great stories. So to each and every parent out there who has ever dared to ask for help around this topic: good for you! While ‘having the conversation’ may seem daunting and intimidating, I believe embracing moments as they arise and having mini conversations with your young children can be extremely beneficial in building a solid relationship between you and your child.

Here are three suggestions for parents of little ones to keep in mind as those little sex-talk moments arise.

1. Whatever you do, do your best not to panic or freak out. Fear can bring unnecessary stress on you as a parent and our kids can sense our fear from a mile away.

One night, a mother was giving her son a bath. It was the little boy’s birthday, and when he looked at his body in the bathtub, he told his mom, “Look mommy—my penis is a birthday candle, blow it out!” Rather than turning and running in the other direction or ignoring or suppressing the boy’s comment, this mom affirmed her boy’s creativity and imagination, then treated it as a playful and fun moment.

2. Give your child age-appropriate language to help them create a connection between body parts and their sexuality.

One evening, a father and his daughter were locked in the power struggle about bedtime. Running out of patience, the father kindly, yet firmly instructed his daughter that she must go to bed, because he is the boss of her. His daughter responded, “Well, you can tell me to go to bed, but you can’t tell my vajayjay to go to bed. I am the boss of my vajayjay!” And what could he do? After all, him and his wife had repeatedly affirmed to their daughter that those were her beautiful and wonderful body parts—no one else’s. In this particular moment, the father once again affirmed his daughter in being the own boss of her body, but concluded that he was in fact the boss of bedtime. Rather than creating fear, the father created a language for his daughter to understand.

3. Remember to see your child’s questions through their childlike innocence and wonder.

A mother and her son were in the grocery store. Her son had just learned about his genitals, and was excited to apply what he had learned while they shopped. As they passed another female shopper, the boy leaned over to ask his mom, “Mommy, does she have a penis too?!” His mom, unsure of how to respond, mumbled something like, “Yes! Yes, we will buy the peanuts!” The honest and real-life truth is often, we as parents totally miss the moment. But the good news is, there will be more opportunities. So the next time you find yourself in a potentially awkward situation, try to remember to look at your child through the lens of innocence. As parents, it is our important job to honor and protect this innocence and wonder.

Honoring our kid’s questions

So often, anxiety can come from the fear of not having the right answers, but it’s important to remember to honor your children’s questions. It’s natural to ask questions about our body—especially for a child who may be asking the questions for the very first time! When I sit with parents and smile and laugh about these stories, I can’t help but ask myself: What would it be like to raise a generation that sees their sexuality as good and from God?

Sexuality is something that should be protected, but not in a way that it has a barrier around it. Our sexuality is deeply intertwined with our identity in Christ, and asking questions is the first step of a beautiful journey to discover more about who we were created to be.

Parents, I would challenge you with this question: Are we making space to have a one-minute sex talks with our kids? In the grocery store, the bathtub, or wherever else they might arise? Can we slowly begin to change the stigma surrounding sexuality for this next beautiful generation?

It’s worth our best try, wouldn’t you say?

~ becky

Does God See My Desire As Good? A Lesson From Cain and Able

The first date kind of desire

A few days ago, I was sitting in a bar at a little restaurant near my home when I witnessed a beautiful scene: a first date between two strangers. They met online through a popular dating site (ok, maybe I was eavesdropping a bit) and as the date progressed, I heard them ask questions and confirm things they had already shared with one another online.

“You like fishing in the winter?”
“You actually ate alligator?!”

As they opened up and shared with one another, I noticed their body language change. They moved closer and closer together. I believe they were experiencing desire.

Desire – “a feeling that moves one towards something, to strongly wish or want something.”

In the Christian environment I grew up in, desire was rarely talked about positively. Instead, it was labeled as something to suppress, capture, control, and even kill. I grew up thinking desire was a den of destruction bent on destroying us. But over the years, I have slowly, slowly began to learn that desire is simply something that moves us towards something we want. You see, desire moves, pulls, and causes us to seek out something that’s stirring us to action.

The Cain and Abel kind of desire

The Cain and Abel story is a classic tale of desire. Never thought of it that way before? Let me explain. In Genesis 4 we hear about two brothers who bring their own individual offering to God. The text says,

Cain brought an offering to God from the produce of his farm. Abel also brought an offering, but from the first born animals of his heard, choice cuts of meat. God liked Abel and his offering, but Cain and his offering didn’t get his approval. Cain lost his temper and went into a sulk.

God’s response seems a little harsh, doesn’t it? But instead of looking at the offering itself, God is looking at the heart behind the offering. When we read the story, we see two offerings with unequal responses, but God sees two hearts with different intents of desire.

Abel’s offering is brought with his desire to share his very best with God. Cain’s offering is brought with his desire to keep his best possessions and only… kinda give God… just some of it… since he has to. Though it’s easy to judge Cain for his desire to keep his best to himself, I can’t help but notice all the times I too bring God just some of the fruit. Like when I say to another, “I forgive you, but…”

See, the kind of desire that causes us to look inward is desire that’s about what I need, how I can get what I need, and how I can protect myself. I am consuming something because I absolutely need it. When I experience desire and look up knowing the desire has the power to overtake me, I am seeking to be in communion with another.

Desire is not the enemy, it has a purpose.

Can my desire move me toward the Creator?

While I was stealing glances at the first-date couple next to me, I saw him rest his hand casually on her knee. This is the perfect example of desire in real life and in real time! As I continued to sit near them, I felt the anticipation and the desire of these two to be near one another.

If we are created to experience desire and move towards another, could that actually be good?

The longing to be near, to touch, to be with, to be seen, and to be held is not bad. The desire to move towards holds so many deeper meanings. When a man and woman experience the rush of desire together, the desire moves them towards each other.

When experiencing desire, maybe the more important questions are: What if our desire for another actually has something to teach us about desiring God? How do I engage with desire?

Desire that is squashed, denied, or suppressed allows attitudes of anger and selfishness to flourish. Desire that is acknowledged, felt, and expressed will create an ongoing dialogue of engagement.

When treated with respect, desire can be the avenue through which we learn to engage with one another vulnerably, authentically, and with integrity. Desire can lead one to either consume—like we see Cain doing—or be in communion with another, precisely what Abel is doing by offering God the very, very best of what he had.

At the core, desire is meant to move us toward our Creator in order to be more fully alive with all that God created.

One Night Stands: 3 Surprising Ways Your Brain is Affected

Does casual sex exist?

Countless times I sit across from men and women as they share their sexual portfolios—they mention choices that mean nothing and are completely in the past. As I watch the same people wrestle with trust, forgiveness, and commitment, I can’t help but wonder: do those choices really mean nothing? Are they truly in the past? If they are meaningless, why do I continually see people struggle with the ramifications many years after the choices have been made? 

Do one night stands last more than one night?

The truth is, one night stands and casual sex leave an imprint that’s carried with us long after the morning after. When we try to convince ourselves that sex is a casual act, we are going against God’s intentional design for sex. Our brain, and our body, gives us cues to God’s original purpose for sexual union.

  1. Men and women can have different emotional attachments after one night stands

Each person takes away a different emotional attachment. For men, their sexual drive leads them into a physical attachment, which then turns into an emotional one. For women, the possibility of an emotional attachment leads them into a physical one. This can create greater feelings of guilt and depression in women after they have a one night stand because their initial reason for having a one night stand is immediately broken.

  1. One night stands can damage our ability to bond with one another

When two people have sex, the brain releases a neurochemical called oxytocin, a chemical that creates feelings of bonding between two people. When we have casual sex with multiple partners, our brain becomes confused and puts up barriers in order to protect itself. Initially, the brain will continue to produce the neurochemical due to its natural drive to do so, but over time the brain will harden itself to the chemical in an attempt to protect itself from the emotional pain of losing that bond.

  1. Our body remembers things we often seek to forget

When our body is inflicted with pain, a scar or mark is often left as a result of the incident. Long after the initial pain is forgotten, a mark is left as a reminder of the pain that occurred. In the same way, there are chemicals in our brain that carry imprints of what our body has experienced. When we exercise, our brain releases dopamine, and our brain becomes conditioned to remember that exercise. If you were to stop working out for a period of time and then return, your brain would remember the pathway it created and you would remember how to complete the exercise. When we have an intimate relationship after a period of making sexual choices that “mean nothing,” our brains can remember something that happened years ago and trigger a negative memory.

Our brain is the largest sex organ we have and it is crucial to understand its workings in order to have a fulfilling and intimate sex life. If you ever find yourself looking for a safe place to speak further about past choices you’ve made, I’d invite you to reach out.

~ becky

Fifty Shades of… What Exactly?

What are romance movies really teaching us?

In its first weekend, 50 Shades of Grey raked in over $81 million in ticket sales. Labeled as a “dark, romantic adult fairy tale,” the movie has prompted an onslaught of articles responding to the graphic sexual content in the book.

For the past few weeks, I have seen article after article saying the same thing:

“Don’t watch 50 Shades of Grey because it’s bad,” “Stay away because it promotes abusive relationship,” “Definitely don’t watch it because it’s extremely offensive.”

So then why are so many people watching it? What’s behind the desire to watch a movie like 50 Shades of Grey?

Confronting desire

A movie like 50 Shades of Grey promises passion, desire, and romance—things that are good in and of themselves and we are wired to crave. However, when we seek fulfillment in pseudo-romantic material, are we creating a pseudo-connection? Seeking fulfillment by recreating something that’s not real can create something else: tension between us and our spouse. After 35 years of being sexually active and engaged within my marriage, I can tell you three things:

  1. No lyrical and slow-tempo music crescendos occur when making love

Movies tend to portray sex as the culmination activity of every heated or intense moment in a relationship. From the observing point in a theatre seat, we feel the tension building, the music slowing, and the heat in our bodies rising. Yet in real life, there’s no music playing when the tension and stress of kids, bills, and dishes appear. Romance movies tell us to expect something sexy that crescendos, but real life does not have the carefully cued music and scripted dialogue. Can we differentiate this when viewing a film or does viewing something like this create a disparity between what we see and what we have?

  1.  Developing a passionate love life is work

There are many different stages in developing a passionate love life that have longevity. It’s both work and pleasure—literally! Intentionality, vulnerability, and risk are all essential parts of this kind of relationship.

What if God created the intense, rip-your-clothes-off, I-want-to-have-you-now moments? What if God created the slow, methodical, I-want-to-explore-every-inch-of-you moments? What if God created the chosen risk of allowing another to hold you body, mind, and soul?

Each of these moments offers us a choice: 1) to reach toward the other to consume them, or 2) be in communion with them. I believe one of the deepest gifts of sexual engagement is knowing that this one with whom you are vulnerably sharing your body with is willing to risk being together in the “suffering” that is a part of life. A pleasurable connection with my spouse reminds and anchors me to the one who will journey with me in all intimate areas of life.

  1. Great sex in a relationship does not preempt struggles in relationship

When we engage and seek fulfillment in romance movies, we risk measuring our own sexual engagement against something/someone who is not real. We define “great sex” by something that doesn’t have the real-life struggles of learning how to engage with another human being in real time and with real differences. There are no two humans who are the same, and therefore no two sexual connections are the same. If we let movies define what “great sex” is, we are losing the opportunity to create something from discovering another human being.

Is 50 Shades of Grey bad?

When people ask me if I think it’s good or bad to see this movie, I pause. I cannot make a blanket judgment statement about this movie. Instead, I will continue to seek to engage with discovering more of what love really is and what helps men and women discover true passion that helps them create a love life with real longevity.

The Heartbeat of Valentine’s Day

How we love one another

With Valentine’s Day less than 24 hours away, the expectation to get the “perfect” gift or plan the “perfect” date for your spouse or loved one can feel like an overwhelming task. It’s easy to read stories of extravagant Valentine’s Day dates and think, “If only my spouse does (fill in the blank with your expectation)… then I would finally know how much they really love me.”

However, in the pressure of perfect gifts and grand gestures, we run the risk of loosing the simple act of expressing affection.

What if the true heartbeat of Valentine’s Day was less about “getting it right” and more about remembering ways you have loved your spouse in the past?

Here are just three different ideas for what this could look like:

  1. Write three adjectives that describe your spouse, and why you feel they do. When you pick up a pen and actually write words on paper your brain connects differently with the subject matter than it does when you create it electronically. Plus, this act requires a sacrifice of time — from both you and your spouse.
  2. Write three things that are funny about the other one. Let this be an opportunity for you and your spouse to laugh together as you reminisce. An added bonus? Laughter helps to release dopamine in the brain.
  3. Arrange some time to remember your vows together, and if possible, write them out. Couples say vows at the beginning of marriage, but often we forget to revisit these special promises we made to one another later in marriage. There’s no better way to grow together in understanding those vows than experiencing the the ins and outs of day-to-day life.

So this Valentine’s Day, what if we choose to remember how we have loved our spouse in the past as well as the ways we will continue to love them in this coming year?

A Year-end Ministry Review

Giving thanks for this year

With the holidays upon us I can’t help but let my thoughts drift to the life of Jesus. As I think about the threads we see throughout Jesus’ life, I keep returning to two things in particular: His deep love for Scripture and His deep love for people.

These two things are hallmarks for how we at Truessence want to be about the work of healing relationships between women and men. Here is a small peek into what this past year of ministry has looked liked.

In pastoral counseling…

We seek to be a safe and trusted resources for pastors, ministries, and churches when life crises impact individuals, marriages, and communities. I cannot begin to tell you how wildly sacred it is to enter these vulnerable moments of raw, exposed sexual shame, wounded vows, or crushed dreams.

As I sit with people who feel like their identity is being swallowed up by shame from sexual choices, I repeatedly watch a mysterious strength come and help them reach toward the hope of God resting within them. In these moments, I am reminded that there is nothing beyond the healing heart of our God.

“Becky’s pastoral counseling walked our marriage out of unimaginable darkness. We marvel at our new vantage point today and could not be bigger fans and advocates of Truessence’s ministry.”  – Married couple

In socratic Scripture studies…

In creating environments for studying Scripture in the ancient socratic method, we seek to encourage pastors and leaders—women and men of all ages—to ask the important questions: to see how we are a part of a bigger story God is weaving. We believe it is imperative for church and community leaders, pastors, and teachers to know they can be in the process of learning how to live out the truths they are teaching.

“I can think of few things in my life that have been as transformational to my understanding of myself, the Bible, and the character of God as these socratic studies. –  Pastor who attended her first socratic study this fall

“In all of my theological training and learning, I have never been impacted as deeply and profoundly as I have been when studying socratically. It has changed my life. – Pastor who regularly attends socratic studies

Noticing the new life

I hold a vast well of gratitude for what has been planted and what has come to life this year—both in counseling and through studying Scripture. If Truessence is a ministry you feel compelled to invest in, I’d love to invite you to do so. Because of your continued financial support, we are able to:

  • Bring hope in dark places through counseling.
  • Provide environments for leaders to engage with Scripture in new ways and, in turn, bring what they learn into their circles of influence.

Here are a four specific ways you can support Truessence.

$25  $75   $150

“I invest in Truessence because I dearly want to give couples the opportunity to receive counseling that I never had.” – Monthly giver

A few months ago, as I was on a plane headed to a community experiencing a sexual crisis with deep wounds, I became overwhelmed by sadness. I began taking deep, yoga-like breaths to keep from wiping my nose on my seat mate’s shoulder.

Oh God how will I hold these people? Can there be hope in this hard place?

As I breathed I closed my eyes and saw an image of Jesus on the cross, hardly able to breathe. He began giving His breath me and to this community so we could continue the ministry of deeply loving God’s people.

And so, on behalf of myself and the Truessence Board, I’d like to express our gratitude for the ways your support has allowed us to invest in the lives of others this year. Keep us in your heart as we seek to listen carefully to where God is leading us in this next year of ministry.

May you breathe our God in and out with joy,

~ Becky Patton and the Board of Truessence

Conversations About Sexuality: How to begin when you’re (just a tiny bit) unsure

Unpacking our emotions around sexuality

Today I was having a conversation with a friend and it reminded me of this amazing music video about the soul returning and hearing the Creator. I’m sure most of you have heard this song by Mumford and Sons like a bazillion times, but today, as I returned to this song, I heard the lyric’s invitation in a new way.

As men and women, what rises in us when we think about having a conversation about sexuality with someone we love? Worry? Anger? Resignation? Excitement? Fear?

What emotions impact our conversations about sexuality? What is it that we really want to say?

What the Scriptures tell us

As I continue to study and dig through the Scriptures, I am more and more certain that our Creator wants us to experience our sexuality as good. Our sexual drive is something created with a purpose and with intention, but it also has an incredible power to create havoc in our lives.

If we are going to engage in conversations about sexuality, we must remember we are spiritual and sexual beings created by the hand of God. And this is “…good, very good!”

Do we remember who we are?

If we have have fallen asleep to this fact, forgotten this truth, or perhaps you are hearing it for the first time — I want to do nothing but encourage you.

Learning to have open and healthy conversations about sex takes work. A lot of work — trust me. It certainly doesn’t just happen overnight. As a sexual being you have something to share with your sexual partner and it’s important to learn to find language that can empower a deeper sexual connection between the two of you.

If you take a minute to watch this video, I encourage you to notice what rises up in you. What does it feel like to think about having a real conversation about sex with someone you love?

Our sexuality is designed by God for the intention of us experiencing the fullness of God’s love.

Maybe this truth might be hard to take in, but I do know one thing: it’s never too late to experience the soul being awakened and it’s never too late to let go of the shame that hides us in silence.

It’s never too late.

~ becky

Photo credit.