It’s the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and Point of Grace makes it even better with their Christmas album Winter Wonderland.
It’s the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and Point of Grace makes it even better with their Christmas album Winter Wonderland.
When I was twelve, I first discovered soft-core online pornography. Somehow, in the days of dial-up internet, I found it. A lot of it. I grew up in a Christian home where we didn’t discuss matters of sex or desire. I was very sheltered, so when I found these online images, I became entranced with curiosity and confusion. It started to fill in the blanks my parents left, and I enjoyed the new feelings it brought up in me. I became a regular visitor to these sites, and as an avid reader, began to scour novels for steamy sex scenes. I even took these on family holidays to read over and over again.
My sheltered upbringing and secretive porn habit set me up for vulnerability in high school. I just never fit in. I experienced ongoing bullying and ridicule for a number of years, as did the band of misfits I gathered around me. One day, one of these loyal but atypical friends was violently assaulted, and I was a witness. This crushed me, leaving me with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Undiagnosed for a number of years, I became erratic, afraid, and dependant on a number of destructive habits. These included self-harm, theft, and repressed rage which would erupt at any time.
A confused, vulnerable and unempowered young woman is easy prey. At eighteen I entered into what would be the most damaging relationship I’d ever have. I was willing to do just about anything to feel loved and valued, and he was just as willing to exploit that. Despite my growing Christian convictions, my submissive and vulnerable state meant that having sex with this non-Christian boyfriend (who I didn’t even like that much) just two months into our relationship was an easy choice. I say ‘choice’ but is it really consent when he knows you want to wait for marriage yet gets you drunk, mocks your prudence and pressures you into saying ‘yes’ time and time again?
Sex was horrible. His personal pornography collection (which he happily showed me) taught him what a woman should look like, how she should act and what she was expected to do for him. I was not that woman. He humiliated me and made sure I knew how incompetent and forgettable I was…as a human, and a means for sex. Intimacy was as far away as the concept of my own worth at this time.
By the grace of God, we broke up. But, once single again, I had space to feel my repressed emotions, and ask the unnerving questions:
Why was sex so terrible?
What was wrong with me?
What did I do wrong?
I quickly rediscovered the pornography of my childhood in my seeking, but this time around, I had my own smartphone, laptop, and high-speed internet.
It was an education. What was my body supposed to look like? What was I supposed to do and say to be desirable to men? More than a (terrible) education, it became my escape from the shame that haunted my every moment. The rush of dopamine and adrenalin made me feel something other than sadness for a few moments. I felt a sense of ‘control’ when I felt lost and vulnerable. I sought the experience of intimacy, without the risk of rejection or being told I was forgettable. I relived and fantasized about traumatic sexual experiences, but this time, I had the power.
Porn never salved my pain like I hoped it would, and it only taught me lies about femininity and sex. I wanted to stop using porn. Nevertheless, I kept seeking these elusive answers. The shame I originally felt about myself seemed to double, quadruple, and multiply beyond belief every time I used pornography. It only fuelled my pain, and I eventually began to acknowledge I had a problem. I was addicted to pornography and masturbation.
I didn’t tell a soul. I truly believed I was the only woman on Earth struggling with porn. Surely the only Christian woman! Every resource I had come across for porn addiction was drowning in masculine pronouns. I felt like the odd one out. Here I was attending Church, serving in ministry, studying at Bible College–and helplessly addicted to porn. From the outside, I looked like the perfect Christian girl. I had changed a lot since high school, I was quiet and I served and worked with children. I had good academic results and seemed balanced enough. I even won Christian leadership awards. No one would have guessed my little secret.I felt like I had two personalities. In public, I was a Christian girl. In private, I was destroyed by my inner turmoil and insatiable sexual desire.Click To Tweet
This dichotomy tore me apart. I felt like I had more secrets and shame than humanity within me. I felt completely drained of my femininity and worth. I desperately wanted to believe what the Bible said about me that I was loved and had value, but my shame had a louder voice. My pornography addiction felt as if it had completely won. It controlled me. And I hated myself for that. I believed God probably hated me too. How could he forgive me? How could my friends and those I ministered to forgive me? I was a lost cause.
It all became too much. One evening, a few years later at church I fell to the floor in tears. An older woman I’d never met came to hold and pray for me. Tears and truth erupted from my face like an overflowing fountain, and she responded: “Me too.”She encouraged me to share with a close friend who could be my accountability partner. I summoned all my courage and confessed over a Facebook message. Two life-changing words popped up on my screen in response: “Me too.” So, the long and arduous road to recovery began. And I had a friend and mentor to walk with me.
Getting free from porn hurt like hell. It wasn’t easy because I had God on my side, nor was it dealt with purely by spiritual means. It took me years of accountability, therapy, reflection, filtering software, navigating a male-orientated recovery world, spiritual healing and tears to find freedom. The journey was not without a few lapses, as well. If you’re a woman struggling to find freedom from porn, head over to The Grace Spot for practical advice, acceptance, and support.You can also find resources specifically created for women at Dirty Girl’s Ministries. GrowthTrac also has a number of blogs on the topic under the category Pornography.
Porn is not a gendered issue, it’s a human one. Let me be your proof that freedom is possible. I was once a slave to shame, I felt alone and couldn’t stop using pornography, but today, I am free. Today, I enjoy a wonderful sex life with my husband, knowing I am incredibly loved and valued not only by him, but by God. I have not compulsively masturbated or used porn in many years, and I live in the joy of that freedom.
Alice Taylor is the founder of The Grace Spot, a ministry dedicated to supporting women who struggle with pornography. She aims to break stigma, and provide resources for recovery, specifically created for women, by women.
Copyright (c) 2018 Alice Taylor, used with permission.
Last week, while my husband and I were in Colorado, we decided to hike some of the gorgeous trails around Colorado Springs. We headed down one in the middle of nowhere — a four-mile loop. But as we started on the trail, it got harder and harder. Trees blocked our way. Rocks were everywhere. Sometimes we even had to climb through rocks to get to the trail.
After about a mile, we gave up, retraced our steps, and found we had missed the actual trail. We had gone off on a side trail that wasn’t really cared for. Once we found the real trail, all was easy going!
Marriage is a lot like this. If you get off track in the early days, marriage gets harder to travel together. Things trip you up or knock you on the head.
And while everybody makes mistakes, I’ve found some mistakes are worse than others. Some start you on a really difficult road that will be harder to come back from. So don’t do any of these five things!
I’ve known six couples where the wife did not have a bank card or access to a joint bank account. She had to ask her husband for money. He controlled it; she didn’t know much about it, even if she asked.
Every single one of those marriages has now ended — or is in serious trouble.
Sometimes, when one spouse (usually the wife) doesn’t work, couples wonder why they should set up joint bank accounts or joint credit cards. But this sets up a terrible dynamic. First, the money isn’t seen as “theirs,” but “his.”
Then, if something were to happen to her spouse, the wife wouldn’t have access to the family’s money to pay the bills. Or what if her husband wasn’t responsible with money? She’d have no way of knowing until the electricity is cut off.
Other couples I know keep completely separate finances, and each pays a portion of the household bills. Again, that sets up a strange dynamic of “his” and “her,” not “their,” money. It makes planning for joint retirement or joint vacations hard. And what if one of them scales back his or her job to care for kids?
Marriage Mastery: From the very beginning of your marriage, share finances. Make a budget together. If you want to keep separate accounts for just a small amount of spending money, I don’t see a problem with that. But on the whole, combine your finances and then save, invest, and spend together.
This may sound like a weird one. If your husband ticks you off, he ticks you off, right? Why is that your fault?
But you don’t HAVE to get ticked off.
Researcher John Gottman, who has studied marriages inside and out and who can predict, with amazing accuracy, who will divorce in the next ten years, has found that showing contempt for your spouse is the number one sign that you’ll split.
If you roll your eyes when your spouse speaks, or cut him off because you think he’s just being stupid again, or in other ways disregard his opinion, then you’re showing contempt. And if you do this long enough, you devalue your spouse in your eyes and then find it easier to justify leaving.
It’s that first year of marriage that often brings the biggest disappointments. You thought his jokes were funny when you were dating, but now he’s not serious enough when you want to have a conversation. His dedication to studies was admirable, but now he’s become boring. He said he wanted to be partners, but he never does laundry. You see all your unmet expectations, and you get ticked off. And then you start sighing. And rolling your eyes.
Marriage Mastery: We’ll always have things that disappoint us in marriage, but it’s your choice what you focus on! Instead of thinking about all the things that tick you off, make it a habit to thank your spouse for two different things they do a day. Concentrate on catching your mate doing good, and you’ll notice more good than bad things!
Before you were married you likely went out and did things. But now you don’t need to go out. So at night you tend to goof off by going on your computer or playing video games. At first that’s fun — you have all this time to unwind! But soon you find you’re not spending time together anymore or sharing experiences.
But if you say, “What do you want to do?” he often doesn’t have an answer. So you retreat to your screens. Then, when kids come, it gets even harder to carve out time for each other, and soon your lives revolve around children, not around each other.
Marriage Mastery: Create a habit of “connecting time” when you share with each other, even if it’s just 20 minutes a day. Go for a walk after dinner; play some two-player board games every night; just do something together daily. It doesn’t need to take the whole evening, but schedule time to connect into your day.
Bedtime is the perfect time to catch up about your day, figure out what’s happening tomorrow, snuggle and talk about your dreams or concerns, pray together, and, of course, make love.
But if you don’t head to bed together, you’ll miss out on those natural times to connect. And soon you’ll start feeling much more distant. You’ll feel as if you’re living separate lives under the same roof.
Marriage Mastery:Unless shift work is involved, create a bedtime routine when you both head to bed together, without computers, TVs, or screens. Make the last thing you do cuddling with each other.
If you don’t head to bed together, you’ll miss out on natural times to connect.
Maybe you have this idea that a good marriage doesn’t have conflict, so you’d rather keep the peace. Maybe you’re just embarrassed and you don’t know how to address something that’s bugging you.
If you don’t talk about the things that bother you, you build up walls. Over time, those walls get bigger, and then they are even harder to dismantle. So whether it’s that sex doesn’t feel very good for you, or you want more help around the house, or you feel lonely when he goes out with friends — talk about it! Don’t bottle it up; that only leads to more contempt (see #2, above).
And here’s something else: Ask for help. If there’s something you want your husband to do, ask him. “Can we spend more time on foreplay, because I feel rushed during sex?” “Do you mind doing the dishes?” “I’ll get the trash ready, but can you take it out to the curb?” Your spouse is not a mind reader, and he doesn’t know what you want. And especially when it comes to sex, guys often appreciate knowing what you’re thinking.
Marriage Mastery: In those times when you catch up, mention the things that bother you. Own your feelings. Solve problems together. When you keep short accounts with each other, you learn how to deal with conflict well. That puts you in good standing for a long life together!
Obviously there are other things couples need to do to make marriage work, like not nurturing relationships with coworkers of the opposite sex, properly separating from one’s parents, and big things like that. But we tend to know those things already. It’s the very little habits we easily slide into that can be toxic a few years down the road. Aside from #1 about money, most of these are little things. It’s easy to get ticked off. It’s easy to stop spending time together. It’s easy to stay up later than your spouse. It’s certainly easy to bottle things up inside.
But if you want a great marriage, stop these things and become more deliberate! You may just find that instead of being rough, the next few years of marriage are actually much smoother and easier than you thought.
An exclusive interview with Rik Swartzwelder, writer-director-actor, whose independent feature film Old Fashioned will be released in theaters over Valentine’s Day weekend 2015.
Your film, Old Fashioned, is poised to release when the film Fifty Shades of Grey does. Was this intentional?
Absolutely. We actually held off on the release of our film to make that happen. This is a unique opportunity to broaden the cultural conversation on the topic of love and romance.
The messages of each movie couldn’t be more different. How would you compare them?
Ironically, the stories are more similar than one might expect. When we were deciding to market our film as an alternative to Fifty Shades, I took it upon myself to read the original novel. Both stories actually deal with protagonists who are damaged, isolated, and have problems with genuine emotional intimacy. The stories differ in how the protagonists deal with their brokenness. Our main character, Clay Walsh, does so by—to a fault—pursuing God and righteousness; Christian Grey does so by pursuing . . . other things.
Old Fashioned is a story about two very broken, flawed human beings who try to figure out love and life and God in ways that make sense for them and make room for their own damage and experiences. The choices the characters make in the film are right for them. I’m not advocating for—neither am I judging—the choices they make. Nor am I saying anyone has to agree 100 percent with the choices Clay and Amber make.
How would you characterize your movie’s main message?
From what I’ve seen at the various preview screenings, the answer to that depends a lot on what someone brings to the film. We’ve screened at some mainstream festivals (of no religious persuasion at all) and for many faith-audiences as well, and the discussions vary quite a bit. As with most films, people draw their own conclusions and take away from the film what they wish. I’m not here to enforce any kind of particular interpretation of the film. But if I were to even attempt to sum up its message, I would quote Clay’s Aunt Zella when she simply says, “You are loved, oh, my child, you are.”
What happened in your life to inspire this script?
It was birthed out of a time when I was hanging around a bunch of singles of a variety of faiths, most in their early 20s to mid-30s. We were just a regular bunch of guys and girls who were trying to figure out love and dating and finding someone with whom to share life. We also were concerned with God being part of that process . . . and trying to understand what that looked like in a modern context.
That group of folks also happened to love movies. Somewhere during that time, we all had the conversation about how there never had been a romantic comedy or romantic drama that really told our story on screen— a romantic story concerned with being funny and emotional and engaging, but that also made room for the idea that modern love could indeed be something sacred.
Is there any similarity between you and Clay Walsh?
Clay goes further in both directions — before and after his conversion— than I ever did, but the basic arc of his character is very familiar terrain for me. As I was growing up, my moral compass was greatly shaped by pop culture, and I had to fight my way out of that—fight to discover what true virtue could be. Like Clay’s, my pendulum definitely swung from one extreme to another. His journey back to balance and a deeper understanding of God’s mercy and grace is an autobiographical strand as well. It’s not my life story, per se, but thematically, in a sense, it is.
How does your movie speak to singles struggling with the concept of purity, or who feel sexual expression is an important part of the dating process?
That’s the kind of question that both Clay and Amber struggle with, albeit from rather different starting points.
Having lived a rather promiscuous life before becoming a Christian—and seeing the wide variety of damage that can lead to in the lives of many—I’m a little surprised that sex outside of marriage between Christians is becoming so widely embraced and left unchecked by Christian singles and their pastors. I’m a filmmaker, not a theologian. But I’d say Old Fashioned acknowledges that the pursuit of any kind of integrity or righteousness in a relationship isn’t easy in the least and is rife with potential risks. The film holds up a standard— without apology— but it does so fully acknowledging our frailty and humanness. And it doesn’t heap guilt upon those of us, such as me, who have made some mistakes and carry some real regrets.
Why did you select Old Fashioned as the title to your movie? Unfortunately, today that term connotes prudishness, puritanical thinking, an unwillingness to change with the times. Were you concerned this might be a turn-off to potential moviegoers?
To be honest, I wanted to play with their expectations a bit. The film surprises people with where it goes, and I liked the idea of a title that flips the audience’s expectations upside down. Sure, titling it this was a risk. Does the film take place in the 1800s in Amish country? What’s it about, exactly? I think the marketing team has done a good job of messaging us outside that box.
I also love the challenge of trying to give the expression new meaning; it doesn’t have to be a negative to glean wisdom and grace from those who have gone before. And bottom line, the kind of love we’re talking about in the film is a little countercultural; it’s different. And that’s okay.
So what is your definition of “old fashioned”?
It’s about mutual respect, a sense of honor, a recognition that love can and should be sacred. The past was in no way perfect. But some of what we’ve abandoned from “the way things used to be” has been done at our own peril.
Skeptics might say this old-fashioned approach to love and romance isn’t going to fly in our overly sexualized, hook-up culture. How would you respond to that?
I know people who are doing this, so I’d have to disagree. Life is not merely what TV or a computer screen or a social media meme tries to tell us it is.
What is your main goal for this movie?
First and foremost, to provide an entertaining time at the movies. I hope folks laugh a little, cry some good tears, and are taken out of their lives for a couple hours.
In addition to entertaining the audience, I hope like-minded people might realize they are not alone in longing for more, that some with regrets from previous relationships might find a measure of healing. And for a few, I hope Old Fashioned will help them challenge the status quo and raise the bar in their own romantic lives.
Is your main target for this movie women?
I wasn’t thinking that way when I was working on the script. And now that I’ve seen the film play with a wide variety of audiences, I’d say that the target is definitely broader than that.
By and large, what I’ve witnessed is that in men and women, both church and unchurched, the people with whom the film connects most deeply are those who have some relational wounds from the past that aren’t quite completely healed. I’ve talked with many who have experienced a measure of healing and wholeness from watching the film. That’s a powerful thing.
Rik, are you married?
No, I’m not, but I am in a committed relationship and both of us take seriously many of the ideas explored in Old Fashioned.
Has God take you any lessons throughout the writing and making of this movie?
Above all, God has taught me patience. Just as the promise of a child to Abraham and Sarah came many, many years before the birth of Isaac, the journey of Old Fashioned from idea to screen took many years— more than ten. Along the way, there were delays and detours and hurdles that kept things from happening on my timetable. Now that we’re about to release in theaters nationwide on the same weekend as Fifty Shades, I no longer believe all those “delays” were merely allowed by God. I believe they actually were designed by God so our film could find its way to the public arena at just this moment.
I wouldn’t change a thing.
See Old Fashioned this weekend!
Copyright © 2015 Jane Johnson-Struck.
God led me to your sight this morning and for that I give Him all the glory. Thank you for your heart for a Godly marriage. Julie