Black, White or Grey??

So perhaps you’ve heard of this new book triology by E.L James, Fifty Shades of Grey. This series has created quite the stir of steamy conversations in neighborhood book clubs, TV interviews, blogs and radio talk shows. To be completely honest, my initial response was to ignore the entire thing — assuming it would blow over in a week or two. Boy was I wrong.

Just the other day, I was in my car, thumbing through radio stations, when a radio talk show host mentioned something how teenagers were wanting to “weigh in” on the erotic discussions of Fifty Shades of Grey.

What?!?

Teenagers?!!

I realized there was only one thing to do — especially if our teenagers are reading these books and wanting to be apart of the conversation — I marched home and downloaded a sample of the book on my favorite electronic device.

It didn’t take me long to get a good preview of the book. In it I began learning the story of a female college student distracted by an attraction to a man, who happened to be seven years her senior. Ok. Nothing erotic in that story line at all, right? But what I did notice, was the language in the book was filled with hints of desire, longing and obvious differences in sexual awareness.

So what exactly is erotic literature? And what does it mean? And how is it impacting our teens?

Webster’s defines erotic as “…devoted to, or tending to arouse sexual love or desire.

Now, don’t be too surprised, but erotic literature is nothing new. It’s been around for centuries! You might even blush when you realize many carry their own erotic literature every week to church! After all, Song of Songs, in the Bible is considered erotic poetry. Rabbinical teachers of the text, called as Rabbis, knew this and how the stirring of desire would impact young boys who were studying the scriptures. The Rabbis would actually limit access to this erotic book until the school boys reached a certain age and were properly equipped to carry these images.

If we believe that God is against desire and sexual arousal — it will impact how we invite our teens to notice and experience their own sexual longings.  Culturally, teens are thrust into the arena of consuming images rather than learning how to be connected to the Creator who designed this desire and their natural longings of exploring their sexuality.

I’ll admit that when I reached the end of the sample text of the download, I completely toyed with the idea of downloading the rest of this book. I very much felt that desire to experience this erotic desire that someone else created and designed…

Want to know why?

It is work to engage with our own imagination and desire, to risk being honest before God about sexual longing. Genesis speaks of being naked and unashamed as a part of our original design and how we are purposefully made by God.

God never intended us to be separated from our desire, but our desire was created to be rooted in our Creator, not what we have created. To let our imaginations run wild in the arena of sexuality at too early an age can be dangerous. Having the intentional conversations with our teens about the truest nature of desire could also be a powerful tool for equipping them for engaging with another human being someday. And ultimately releasing their erotic love within the bounds of marriage.

What if these books are revealing a deep desire to reconnect with our own imaginations?

I am grateful for this opportunity to look closer at this topic. I am more convinced than ever though that this is not how I want teens to be introduced to the wild wonder of their sexuality…!! I think there is more we can teach them, but only if we dare to be honest and encounter risky conversations…

~ b

PS I realize that there might be many different opinions and thoughts about this type of literature. As always, I welcome and look forward to your respectful and insightful comments, questions and wonderings. Thanks friends.

Pornography and the Roots of Desire

In my day a pornographic magazine stuffed under the jacket was a dead giveaway of teenage curiosity about sex. Today electronics are everywhere, in our homes, cars, back pockets and they are getting smaller and easier to hide. So how do we protect our children when we live in a world that is saturated in sex?

A couple weeks ago in the class that I taught a class to parents, counselors and teen advocates, Talking To Your Teen About Sex, we talked about the roots of desire — that our perception of desire is that it’s bad. But actually, I can’t believe that. The roots of desire are just a part of how we are designed AND our Creator intended us to experience desire.

The real choice is what does desire produce – seeds of life or seeds that choke out life?

For me, part of my desire is to create resources around sexuality and spirituality. Each day a portion of my work is scanning the internet, researching current tends and how they are impacting adults and teens. Daily, I engage with my desire and intentionally have to notice when even my well-intended desire can begin to consume me rather than being apart of my life-giving purpose.

Seeds of life or seeds that choke life?

I’m going to make a bold statement. Are you ready? Here it goes: There is not a teenager alive who isn’t curious and desiring to learn about sexuality!

So then, how do we help empower our teens to live with desire as part of their life? Something that holds the tension of potential for building good or creating destructive patterns?

Parents, we want to nurture our teens’ capacity to notice desire in everyday life. After we do that, we want to encourage our teens to learn how to take actions that create deeper strength in them — not actions that lead towards giving into every desire that presents itself.  Desire is not the enemy, but rather, desire is apart of being alive and learning to name this desire with our teens is so crucial. This naming of desire can be everything from food, clothes, travel or how one spends their time — noticing and naming where one’s desire is rooted, is apart of helping our teens find a language that translates into their desires around sexuality.

Yesterday, I happened upon this article When Children See Internet Pornography and realized that THIS is a great resource. It even includes some apps for electronics that help parents as they actively engage with their teens while learning the balance of equipping and empowering their teens.

Parents, you will have a series of “sex talks” with your children and the goal is not to shut down the dialogue, but rather to open it up and keep engaged with our teenagers and their own thoughts and perspective. Pornography is impacting our teenagers because they desire to learn about sexuality.

The deeper question how IS porn impacting our relationship with one another?

What desire is it revealing?

Does it create an opportunity or a wall?

Anyone else been following all the hype about the new book, 50 Shades of Grey? I’m going to blog about that next time!

Until then,

~ b

How Are We Feeding Our Teens?

They say a pictures is worth a thousand words… well this picture is raising more than a thousand words! If you have been anywhere near an electronic device in the past week you have seen this TIME article, Are You Mom Enough discussed, torn apart and creating division.

Admittedly I was shocked by the picture, and actually thought it might be best if I just ignored it. But after reading several newsy commentaries about the article, I realized it tapped into a deeper issue for me:

How are we experiencing attachment with our teenagers??

So, with that I purchased the TIME electronic version (complete with videos) and read the article in depth.

The TIME article is about Dr. Bill Sears and the roots of attachment parenting that were a part of a book published in 1992. You might recognize this name, as his younger son Dr. Jim Sears is currently on an afternoon show The Doctors.

The article outlines a philosophy of parenting that encourages both parents to attach to the baby and places a great deal of the practicalities of attachment (i.e. breast-feeding) on the mother. This attachment theory has stirred a great deal of controversy in the psychology world, in fact two books have already been published this year refuting Dr. Sears’ principles. But what I find particularly interesting is how the TIME journalist appears to have heard the part about “the breast” as THE way to achieve attachment with your child.

While considering this article, let’s stop for a second over these two facts:

  1. TIME wants to sell magazines. Obviously. So they used a picture that would do just that. Guess what… it worked!
  2. Attachment theory was born from the absence of parenting – Dr. Sears and his wife were both abandoned as children. They experienced deep loss and from this place of pain they chose to orient their parenting around being available to their children.

What interests me most is the often unattached way we approach parenting when our kids become teenagers. We often want to pull away from our teenagers, because parenting them can be … well… really hard!

So just how does this article connect with teenagers?

Food is nourishment, but it is also a way in which we connect to one another as a family. Anyone with a teenager knows how sometimes to even get their attention we have to have food in the house?!  Yet, how are we feeding our teens?

In August 2011, Columbia University released statistics around teens and engagement with addictive substances. One of their findings includes this quote found on page 28 of the report:

“Eating dinner as a family continues to be one of the best ways to help teens avoid smoking, drinking and using marijuana….Teens who have frequent family dinners (five to seven times a week) were four times less likely to use tobacco, more than two times less likely to use alcohol and two and a half times less likely to use marijuana than teens who ate dinner with their families fewer than three times a week.”

I do not write to this to instill any sort of panic or fear. Instead, I hope this might be encouraging as you seek to parent your teen well. Maybe it does matter how our teenagers are nourished and that they’re engaged with their parents when eating dinner.

In hopes of not over simplifying this article, I must say, at the core of researching this article I realized the complexity and simplicity of food. It bonds us to one another from birth to death. Food speaks a universal language to our well being.

Maybe part of the answer to nourishing our teens is lying just right over there, in the refrigerator.

Have you read this TIME article? What did you think?

~ b.

Your Teens First Date: Parents Please Remain Calm

Week three of Talking To Your Teenager About Sex class…only one more to go! My many thanks to each of you who have ventured into this new class about teenager’s sexuality. As we have been exploring language for discussing what healthy sexuality looks like for teenagers, YOU are helping to shape the content direction for future classes, blogs and…maybe even books!!

So while technology, on last Sunday, denied us all access to this great video on the differences of how men and women experience trauma in the brain, I thought I would blog a bit more about how pain plays a role in our view of sexuality.

Ready? Here we go!

We all have a sexual portfolio that we carry with us. The context of our view about sex has a foundation. Often we do not think about where we formed our ideas or images of sexuality, but they are rooted in our experiences and the emotions that were attached to those experiences, whatever they may be.

As parents, if we have our own perceptions and unresolved pain because of our own experiences, we run the risk of transferring this onto our teenagers. Need an example? Wish I didn’t have one, but I do. Many actually, but I’ll just share one.

Our daughter was headed out on her first date. Her first date!! Believe me, I tried to act cooler at the time — honestly. So, about an hour after she left, I began to pace. Kitchen to family room. Family room to kitchen. Then again. And again. And again.

You see, panicky images of my own first date and how I had “tricked” my parents to sneak out with that one boy dominated my thinking and paraded through my imagination.

I wish I could have named it so clearly then, but what I was doing in those moments of pacing was transferring my own thoughts and images … onto my daughter:

  • She would lie – because I had lied.
  • She would sneak around – because I had snuck around.
  • She wouldn’t tell me about the date – because I had never told about my dates.

The truth was, our daughter was on date — a first date — with a boy that we knew and a curfew that afforded them little time to sneak around. My own unresolved pain was blinding me to the truth of who my daughter actually was and what she was experiencing in those moments.

What if part of the tension with our teenagers is about us re-remembering our own days of being a teenager AND getting to engage with God’s grace and forgiveness, inviting both teen and parent into deeper relationship with our Creator?

How might we empower our teenagers if we could identify with them vs. transferring our own experiences onto them?

Teenagers today face a world that is saturated with sex as a physical act and little to no understanding about the true nature of being intimately connected to another human being.

Maybe God grants us this tension-filled time to draw us towards the so often misunderstood element of what sexuality reveals: our deep desire to be seen, to be valued and yes, to be touched.

The beauty of what God created in our human capacity to be with another human being is sacred and meant to be experienced without shame or fear.

What if we reveal to our teenagers a beauty that cannot be achieved through mere one night stands?

Risky but true – we as parents hold deep wells of instruction for our teenagers, but we must risk the dangerous ground of confronting our own pain and inviting our teenagers to see what God created to be good.

Any first dates in your house lately?

~ b.

A Letter From My Dad: Fathering Our Sons

Just the other day, I was cleaning out some old files. You know, the ones that are so stuffed and jammed full, you shudder to even approach the cabinet where they make their home, least papers come flying out at you?!? Well, perhaps it was all this spring in the air, but the time was right…and I so thankful I did.

Because guess what I found?

A letter.

A letter from my father.

Not a note from a random birthday or another special occasion, but rather this letter was full of his random thoughts to me. As I held the words there on that piece of paper, it took me back to when I actually had received this letter. I remember how my heart had swelled to receive something special like this in the mail, but mostly I remember how my heart leapt because these words came from my father.

When was the last time you wrote a letter to your teenager?

I do not mean an email, a text or scribbled dinner directions left on the kitchen counter. When was the last time you actually sat down with pen and paper and reminded your teenager about who they are or how you are connected to them?

My husband teaches a class about fathers mentoring their sons into manhood, adulthood. One exercise he requires from time to time is to have the fathers write actual letters to their sons.

This exercise is intended to assist the Dads to see and name what they notice in their sons. But also, this process often reveals words that they as men, husbands and dads desire to hear as well.

It’s an incredibly beautiful process. For teenager…and for parent.

I thought it might be time you heard from another, what sons (and daughters) might just be longing to hear:

Dear Son,
As I look back on my life, I find a curious but clear pattern in my memories. As many
times as I have failed, as often as I have really blown it or messed up, the only ones that
stay with me as regrets are the ones where I violated my heart. I have concluded that in
the end there are no failures except the failure of character. Everything else is about
what you do, but failures of integrity are about who you are.

It is good to pause, remember who you are is continuing to become through the choices
that you make. The foundation of your beginning does not lie in this world, you were
born first from the love of your Creator and then through the human love of passion.

My Son, live your life with passionate abandon. Risk greatly, attempt great things and
never fear failure. Make opportunity your ally, just never, never compromise your
integrity which is the inner conception of your life where the fingerprints of God rest.
Guard your heart. Let who you are speak loudly and serve as your defining
characteristic.

No matter how hard you fall, the strength of your character will get you back on your
feet. Remember Christ Jesus is transforming you from the inside out, taking your heart
of stone and giving you the heart of God.

You will desire many things in this life, but above all else desire God. The integrity of
your passions will continue to lead you to the man I see you becoming.

Honor and love,
Dad

~ b.

(Letter adapted by Rick Patton from Erwin McManus materials, used with permission.)

The Red Rooms of Mothering Our Daughters

My womb was the hidden place where my daughter shared my body, my cells and my hormones — for nine whole months. But more than that … it was also her gateway into this world.

I remember those sweet words, “It’s a girl!!”, because they will forever be etched into my mind as a beloved memory. From her very first breath, my little daughter embarked on her gradual journey away and separate from me.

Oh, it begins very gradually this separation–first a breath is taken, soon they feed themselves, eventually they’re crossing the street, until suddenly they’re asking for the car keys. Shockingly, we hand them over only to watch our precious daughters drive away…away from us!

What does it look like Moms, to notice our young girls growing into young women? What vulnerabilities does this raise in us?

For me, one vulnerability was nurturing her opinions, her voice. This was especially vulnerable when that voice was so very different from my own!

In this particular story, my daughter was interested in decorating our house. She did not get this interest from me, my friends will tell you, I am not a decorator. My daughter wanted to paint my nice, beige, conservative, boring, predictable living room walls …. bright RED.

All I knew was the comfy place of beige walls. Everything practical in my brain said, “Red? Red! I don’t have furniture to go with a red room?! All I have is furniture that fits with the nice, dull beige walls!”

How do we make space for our young daughters to be their own person? Test and exercise their opinions? Explore their own creativities and interests?

Well, my daughter and I went to the paint store. We gathered samples and I listened to her, even though I could not begin to visualize possessing a living room with sassy, dark red walls. I was clearly out of my comfort zone.

She had pure creative style bubbling up and out of her. Much like years ago when my belly grew with her new life within me, she was now, again stretching and pushing against me, reminding me that soon, someday very soon, she would no longer be in this cocoon called home. And as I began listening more closely, I realized she had something to teach me. I heard more than her opinion about color; she also needed to explore what was growing in her, who she was becoming.

Then, I began to see red-colored walls everywhere–magazines, offices, friend’s homes–and suddenly my eyes were opened beyond what I could envision in the realm of decorating. Believe me, she has more decorating style than I will probably ever have.

Mothers and daughters share a unique DNA, our bodies share physiological similarities, but we are not the same.

Now hear me: my job as a mother is not to remake my daughter into a little “me”. No, no it’s not. Rather my work as a mother is to notice who my daughter is and nurture the life that she is discovering…as she goes along. Teenage girls are in a season of separation from their mothers in significant ways, important ways that are about them choosing to risk finding their own identity and passions.

To my fellow Moms, what does it look like to nurture your daughter’s unique opinions and style? To notice her language? And what does it look like to provide enough space that she can stretch and grow into being a woman with her own unique design?

Can we treasure these changes that separate one we love from us?

What if we are once again stretched by our daughters’ growth…and we daily choose not to grasp and hang onto them?

I believe we must work to honor the fact that our teenage daughters have something to teach us that we desperately need to remember—change is risky.

And sometimes you just do it. You paint a room red in order to let the color remind you every single day that being stretched can bring forth great life.

I painted my living room red, how has your teenage daughter stretched and grown you in ways you could never have imaged? What’s your “red room”? Oh do please share!

~ b.

Teen Boys and Teen Girls and Their Different Brains

Just yesterday we finished our second week of class, Talking To Your Teenager About Sex class with parents from Church of the Open Door community. I loved getting to see and engage with you around the topic of teenagers and sexuality — specifically around our topic for this week: gender differences.

Gender differences seem quite obvious as part of being man and woman as an adult, but when we look at gender differences in the brain during teen years…whoa! I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it countless times again, “Really God, what are you thinking?!”

Let’s start with teen boys.

 

Testosterone is skillfully coursing through a teen boy, altering and expanding his body structurally while also being akin to his body being “drunk.” Oh let me explain that one for those of you who were not at the class!

This tsunami of testosterone is coursing through a boy’s 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 girls. Think about it. That is a massive about of restructuring going on in a teen boy’s body!

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.” See? Drunk on their own testosterone. Really God, what were you thinking??”

No wonder our teenage boys need so much sleep during this stage of development! Their bodies are working so hard to receive the changes coursing through them.

What about teen girls?

 

Estrogen is also flooding through and altering the structure of a teen girl’s body. At the core of estrogen’s purpose is an unfolding of the ancient biological manual of becoming sexually desirable. This rewiring is part of why humankind has continued to create and it’s key to the continuation of life!

As estrogen makes it’s way throughout a teen girl’s body, breasts begin to appear, emotions are heightened making teen girls recognize how they are perceived (thus the susceptibility to media influence), and a monthly surge of estrogen-progesterone will cause menstrual bleeding to begin which also creates growth of the pubic hair.

Teen girls often have a lot of words, talking all day (and sometimes all night) with close friends — one reason this is often the case with teen girls is because language and speech are activating their pleasure centers. Fascinating right? During teen years, a girl’s language area of her brain can be twice as large as a teen boy’s. That’s why relationships are so vital for teen girls in these developmental years.

How do we view differences? Do we value these things as good? Designed by a Creator, with love?

As a parent, I know the teenage years hold many frustrations, but I honestly believe these years are rich because they have something profound to teach us about:

  • the mystery of God
  • the mystery of man
  • the mystery of woman, and
  • if we make space to allow these differences to invite us to see the creative hand of God in our teens, the wonder of what we have yet to discover.

Kind of intoxicating to think about… right?

~ becky

 

Week 2: Talking To Your Teen About Sex

Last Sunday, I enjoyed myself so much amongst the fabulous group of parents, mentors and local community youth workers that gathered for the first class in the series of Talking To Your Teenagers About Sex.

There we were: a large group of adults — sitting in a room — together — talking with one another — about sex — in a church!!

Can you even picture it?!

We broke the silence. We talked about sex in church. And hey guess what, we’ll do it again this Sunday, too.

Please join us!

This week I’ll be teaching about the physical and psychological differences between teen girls and teen boys. I’d tell you more…but why not just come find out for yourself?

This Sunday, April 22nd, in Maple Grove at Church of the Open Door starting at 11 am. Click here for directions.

Oh and also, last week I received some great suggestions from parents for blog topics related to teens and sexuality. I’m looking forward to tackling that pile of ideas in the coming weeks!

Blessings on your rapidly approaching weekend friends.

~ b

Let’s Play a Game: Real or Not Real

Let’s play a game. Are you ready? Maybe you’ve heard of it. It’s called Real or Not Real.   I’ll say a statement and you tell me if it’s real or not real. Here we go:

“Something is wrong with me if I think about sex a lot.”

Not Real. The human brain is designed to think about reproduction. In fact one of the main functions of the hypothalamus is to make sure that we eat, drink and reproduce. So your brain literally craves to be near another.

“I crave attention and I love being touched.” 

Real. Skin to skin touch is something that we were designed to experience. Think about the first man and woman; it was God who brought them together, introduced them and (believe it or not) was a part of their first union. Craving being touched requires acknowledging and learning what “good touch” is and how we can both give and receive  this.

“My sexual drive is uncontrollable.”

Not Real. Just as no one stuffs food into my mouth and makes me eat, my body’s physical functions are something that I have control over. What often happens is we learn patterns of thinking and acting where we respond without questioning their source.

“Teenagers make riskier sexual behavioral decisions.”

Real (read all about it here)Let’s face it, teenager’s brains are “under construction”. This development is a part of their growing into adulthood. Logic and reason, housed in the frontal lobe region of the brain, is developed by making risky decisions. This physical drive is pulling them towards something wonderful–another human being. But, I believe teens need help to understand their body’s drive and can then be empowered to see what the real risks are.

“Teenagers will have sex, there is nothing we can do to stop it.”

Real or Not Real?

Okay I have to admit, I have nabbed this game from the recent book series, Hunger Games. My husband and I are still pretty obsessed. You must have read it? Our teenagers sure have…!

I will not give anything away for those who have yet to read the books or see the movie, but all the Capital’s cultural brainwashing about each district and individual’s true identity got me to thinking…

What robs our teenagers of their truest identity?

How can our teens return to the deepest core of who they are?

There is only one way…

Love.

comes to them…

actively seeks them out…

speaks the truth…

risks everything to remind them…

calls them to remember what is true…

We are…made in the image of God and this includes our sexuality.

To re-member this truth, requires that together we remind teens of what is real, and help them see what is not real.

After all parents love their kids.

Real or Not Real?

I’ll let you answer that one.

 

~ b.

When Parent Fear Meets Teen Fear

prolactin cells

While talking to parents this week at the Truessence premier class, Talking To Your Teens About Sex, I referenced a hormone called prolactin.

This hormone has many good traits and is a powerful resource for our body’s efficient functioning. But, there is one interesting interchange that causes prolactin to start to spin out of control: STRESS.

Parents, have you ever felt stress when wanting to talk to your kids or teens about sex?

Yes? Well then, you have experienced a rise in prolactin that floods into your brain. When this flooding occurs, it emits outward and literally goes before us! Our conversation is then riddled with this hormone acting like a cloud between us and our teen. The crazy part? Our children actually experience this hormone emanating from our bodies; they experience our fear and their own fear.

Oh dear.

Yes, teenagers have fear about this topic as well. Yet, I believe they are open, to having conversations about sexuality and spirituality. How do we do this?

On Sunday, I referenced a great book I’ve ready called Anatomy Of The Soul by Curt Thompson, M.D. It’s a rather technical book, but contains some great insights that examine the science of how a person experiences being known and the impact this has on the body/brain connection. I encourage you to pick it up and give it a read if that kind of technical reading interests you! If it doesn’t, not to worry, just stay tuned and I’ll keep giving you great nuggets of helpful info. My pleasure, really!

A question: can we reduce the ill-effect of this hormone and have it return to it’s healthy design within our bodies?

Yes! But only if we acknowledge that the stress…the fear…is there. If we recognize what we are experiencing and dare to venture to the risky ground of naming it, we can call that prolactin back and quiet its raging impact. Science has actually proven this.

If you want to have real conversations with your teenagers about sex, the place to begin is by being honest. Hard but true, we are both experiencing stress around this topic.

What if we invite our teenagers to put aside their fear by modeling it first. Maybe saying something like this:

“You know it feels kind of scary to say this out loud, but I feel nervous talking to you about sexuality. But I really do have some experience on this whole topic, otherwise you wouldn’t be here right? Sex is wild and wonderful and because I REALLY love you, I want to not let my fear build a wall between us…let’s figure this out together how to talk about it.”

I wonder what could happen if we just went for it and put it out there!