Love Dispels Fear


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“Perfect love casts out all fear.”

I know the Bible tells me this, but there are times when I’m still afraid.

Maybe fear comes from a job loss, a diagnosis of illness or an approaching storm. We can feel afraid when the power goes out, a car swerves into our lane or our child isn’t home on time.

And while some fear is a God given way of keeping us safe, living in a state of fear is not what God intended.

He wants for us to be so intimately acquainted with him that we trust he’s got our back no matter what.

Knowing God loves us causes us to feel safe. In his love, we become who he created us to be. He loves us no matter what we’ve done or neglected to do. His acceptance of us, as his wonderfully made sons and daughters, drives away fear.

Remembering what he says in his word and holding fast to those promises of faithful love will banish fear in those situations which threaten us.

I must keep choosing to stand on his word because it is true. All else is a lie.

And in that place, in his presence, fear evaporates. Peace comes. I can rest.

The Effects of Addiction Trauma


IMG_3527I’m not a trained or licensed counselor.

That’s my disclaimer. But I have read dozens of books, spent hundreds of hours in counseling and led groups dealing with addictions. Most importantly, I’ve experienced addiction in some way for the majority of my life. Either being addicted or living with one.

Here’s the simple truth.

Whether we live in addiction or live with an addict (usually it’s both), the trauma of that lifestyle imprints our being with carved patterns of unhealthy thinking and behavior. It warps our perspective so that our reality is skewed.

We cannot tell what is true.

Lest we think that by addiction I mean alcohol or drugs only, let’s be clear about the addiction to which I refer. We can become chemically addicted to drugs or alcohol, yes. And while those substances garner most attention, we can also be addicted to sex, gambling, shopping, food, control, cleanliness, fears, social media, television, reading, new ideas, extreme sports…basically anything that has mastery over us.

Whatever triggers the pleasure center of our brain and causes a rush of adrenaline or dopamine can become an addiction. In themselves, those hormones and chemicals are beneficial and help us in life, but when we’re hurting, either physically or emotionally, we can seek the release to ease our pain.

Too much of a good thing, as they say.

The downside is trauma induced by the repetition of addictive behavior. Without the hours of training or a state generated license, here’s part 1 of what this layperson has learned about the effects of addiction trauma.

*We don’t know what loving someone really means – Life becomes a struggle to keep others happy while trying to make them love us. This is not what love is all about. We shouldn’t have to make anyone love us. Covering for their indiscretions or making excuses for them (or them for us), taking the responsibility for their actions, carrying the weight of the relationship is not loving, it is enabling. Not meeting their all their needs, demands (or desires), does not make us unloving or cold. Love never demands, it gives. God loves us unconditionally. He loved us first. Healthy people can give and receive love without conditions.

*Lack of trust – Relying on people feels like a dangerous proposition usually because our experience with unhealthy people says they think about what pleases them at the moment, not what is wisest for them or others. Their choices that show lack of consideration for others are hurtful and sometimes cruel. Whether we are the addict or we live with one, constant betrayal leads to suspicion. It becomes difficult to trust, not only those we live with, but anyone.

*Desire for vs. fear of intimacy – Being intimate requires vulnerability. We long to be known and close to others, but we fear them knowing us. Since it’s impossible to be intimate with someone we don’t trust or be vulnerable when we fear disclosure, we can run in and out of relationships. In a healthy relationship, we accept and are accepted without conditions, but addicts hide to alleviate feelings of shame. We leave people guessing about who we really are. Or, we wonder why we can’t seem to get close to the other person. We may try to detach ourselves emotionally from others to feel safe, but that isn’t healthy. Or we may need to detach from someone who is cruel or abusive. Unfortunately, they may then accuse us of being cold or distant. Either way, intimacy eludes or strangles us.

*Seeking fulfillment in other areas – When one area of addiction isn’t enough anymore to keep us numb, our children may become our emotional stability or our work, hobbies, friends, food, shopping; we may even turn to alcohol, drugs, or adulterous relationships to feel better about ourselves and our lives. Unfortunately, the feeling of fulfillment is temporary and we end up setting or continuing patterns that will eventually destroy us and others we love.

When addiction of any type becomes consistent, it grooves patterns in our soul and in our brain. But addiction is only a symptom of a deeper issue. Once we take time to heal the hurts of our life, and make a conscious effort to create new patterns, we find we no longer need the thing we were addicted to. However, depending on each individual situation, some addictions can take days, months or years to overcome.

There is no quick fix for an unhealthy lifestyle and it’s damage.

But there is hope. The Bible said that it’s for our freedom that Jesus Christ came. God loves us and longs for our lives to be abundant and prospering (I’m not talking just about money here). He hurts when we hurt and wants to heal our pain. When we let him REVEAL what’s underneath the issues, and we choose to DEAL with the problems, he can HEAL us so we won’t need something else.

It’s a journey. Join me?

 

More Than Words on a Page


I recently marked my third year anniversary of blogging.

Originally I began blogging to build a platform as recommended by agents and publishers in order to help facilitate an audience for the book I had been writing. And yes, I published the book, finished another and have more in progress. But the best part of blogging has been the people I’ve “met.”

Relationships make life worth living.

From the deeply intimate ones I enjoy with Jesus, my husband and children to the casual liked-your-post types, they all add so much to my life. Every week I’m challenged, encouraged, or uplifted by laughter not only because of my dear family and friends, but also through you, my readers and fellow writers.

I thought I’d take a jaunt down my blogging memory lane and provide some of my newer friends with the links of my fondest posts and those readers found helpful.

Mostly, I pray that whatever I write will point people to Jesus.

 Here’s the Top Ten:

 Did You REALLY Meet Online? About Us

A Shout Out

Is Online Dating Gaining Popularity?

The Emptiness of Sexual Encounters

What I’m Learning From My Illness

Miracles Do Happen

What is Intimacy?

Getting Well Series – How Do You Rebuild Your Life?

Online Dating…An Obsession?

IT’S FINALLY HERE!

Hope you enjoy!

What is Intimacy?


41RBRdyNsuL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_Closeness. Familiarity. Seeing into the depth of someone. Allowing ourselves to be seen.

Vulnerability.

Who are you intimate with?  A significant other? Your best friend? How intimate are you? Do you willingly share your heart, your secrets, your hopes and dreams? How are you at recognizing the intonations of their voice or mannerisms? Like me, do you find yourself saying “You sure know me, don’t you?”

Now think about God. Jesus. The Holy Spirit.

If you believe in God, how close are you? Or perhaps you’ve only thought of him as a distant deity.  Maybe you’ve never thought much about God other than to use the word as an explicative. So if I told you that he is intimately acquainted with you, what would you think?

My blogging friend, Rivera Douthit, answers all these questions and more in her new book entitled Intimacy : into me You see. Her presentation of the God who knows and loves us reveals a depth of intimacy that may come as a surprise. I loved the way she examined various areas of life and the corresponding ways God makes himself known to us. Rivera’s use of scripture and fabulous storytelling draws the reader in and offers a glimpse into the heart of God.

He’s not going to deny us the ability to recognize Him if we’re sincerely seeking. He knows our hearts and will reveal Himself in ways best suited  for us and our personalities.

That’s good news for folks who wonder how to find God.

Rivera’s book assures us of God’s love and desire for us. It also points us to ways for us to grow in intimacy in our other relationships as well. In addition, she offers thought provoking questions at the end of every chapter which guide us into considering how intimacy with God and others in our lives currently looks, and how it can become more.

I thoroughly enjoyed Rivera’s stories, and her heart for the Lord. Through Intimacy she offers us a peek into both. A very worthwhile read.

Order Here

 

 

The Emptiness of Sexual Encounters


Society glamorizes sex.

Chris and Sabina's Wedding Cake
Polish Apple Cake

Why is this? Because it feels good? Because it’s entertaining? We assume that any remote attraction between a man and woman should result in a sexual encounter. Why is that? What are we really seeking?

Companies spend billions of dollars each year to promote an activity devoid of any value except a pleasurable experience. Some people feel bungee jumping is a titillating affair, but we don’t see ads telling us that if we wear the right clothes or perfume or even deodorant we will attract a bungee jumping adventure!

So why sex?

Recently, I was chatting with someone about dating online. Since she and I both met our guys on the internet, we had that common connection. The topic of older people looking for love online came up. She wanted to know if I had heard of a particular older woman who wanted sex so she used internet dating to find men.  Traveling all over, this woman encountered these online suitors and had a lot of sex. Apparently, she wrote a book about it.

My initial thought when I heard about this was “and then what?”

Was she satisfied? Left wanting more? What was the point? More sex? Don’t think for a moment that I don’t understand the enticement of the physical experience and outcome of the sexual act.  I’m fully aware! But sex without intimacy, love, and the commitment of two souls is like eating a scrumptious dessert; it may taste good at the time, but it will only last the night.

My husband and I have been reading the book Love and War by John and Stasi Eldrege. I’ve mentioned it before and can’t recommend it enough.  The past couple of weeks we’ve been digesting “The Chapter on Sex” (that’s the title).  The following is from p.178:

Marriage is the sanctuary God created for sex, and only there, in the refuge of covenantal love, will you find sex at its best. For a lifetime. The coming together of two bodies in the sensual fireworks of sex is meant to be a consummating act, the climactic event of two hearts and souls that have already been coming together outside the bedroom and can’t wait to complete the intimacy as deeply as they possibly can.

It doesn’t get better than that.

Truly, it doesn’t. Brendan and I experienced our hearts and souls melding together through our long distance relationship long before we met in person. And we’ve found that our choice to wait for our wedding night to complete the intimacy was one of the best we’ve ever made!

Unfortunately, the general public has bought the line (hook and sinker included) that sex is meant for one night stands or a couple of months of physical pleasure, but that type of encounter is a hollow counterfeit. It may feel good, even great in the moment, but believe me when I say that it’s settling for second best.

The Bible puts it like this:

I have seen something horrible: they commit adultery and live a lie.  Jeremiah 23:14

Adultery is simply any sexual encounter outside the “sanctuary of marriage.” Having sex like that, simply for the sake of a good feeling or entertainment, is living an empty lie. God made sex and made it great (read Song of Songs in the Bible for proof), so the “something horrible” isn’t sex. What’s horrible is the way we get ripped off when we settle for something less than the best God has.

Using the internet to find the love of your life—good idea. Using the internet to find sex—a poor second.

Have you ever taken part in anything you thought was great until you experienced the real thing?

I Don’t Hate Sex


It was a startling revelation to realize that I don’t hate sex.

In fact, making love with my husband, who adores me and treats me with tender kindness, continues to be a wonderful, fulfilling, intimate event that thrills me. Who would have thought? Not I. That is a testimony to my husband, but even more to the healing power of God in my life. I once believed the lies engrained in my heart that told me I was a shameful object only worthy if I could perform well sexually. I accepted the claims that I was a prude, frigid hater of sex.

It isn’t the act of lovemaking as the result of an intimate relationship we hate, it’s the feelings of shame, hurt, rejection, loneliness and often times, physical pain that we hate. In the setting of living with an addict, sex can become a terrible chore we fear. Especially if any kindness shown us comes with a price tag of sex.

Is it surprising that we would avoid sex like that?

In a healthy marriage, intimacy is the basis for sex. Knowing the depth of our spouse and longing to connect with them creates an environment conducive to a physical union being enjoyable and fulfilling. However, for a sex addict to keep their fantasy in place and alleviate their shame, they avoid intimacy. Because of deception and secrecy, we are left only guessing who they really are. Often, the intimate information we share with them is used against us to gain or keep control over us. Obviously, we become reluctant to offer any more of ourselves.

Without intimacy, women especially, have a difficult time giving themselves sexually.

When there is only pain and unresolved conflict, our desire for physical intimacy is destroyed. This leads to emotional detachment in order to avoid feelings of being used. We may truly desire to share intimate relations with our spouse, but as they push us away emotionally while demanding of us sexually, the conflict in our heart leads us to despair.

When a wife can’t meet the needs of her fantasy driven spouse, guilt drives her.

If we say no to sex because we feel like an object, we feel guilty for not meeting his needs. (Especially as Christian wives!) If we go along with his requests, we feel the guilt of giving ourselves without attachment.  We may feel guilty for not loving him well, or enabling his addiction; but which is which? Guilt confuses the lines of boundaries, making us unable to function and driving us into depression.

All of this can lead us to seek fulfillment from other areas.

When our marriage lacks trust, intimacy and enjoyment,  it’s easy to pursue meaning and satisfaction through other means. Our children may become our emotional stability, or our work, hobbies, friends, food, shopping; we may even turn to alcohol, drugs, or adulterous relationships to feel better about ourselves and our lives. Unfortunately, that fix is temporary and can end up setting patterns that will eventually destroy us and others we love.

Life with an addict becomes survival, not living.

We struggle to get through a day, coping with a world that spins out of control. Those around us may not notice that we are barely holding on. If we believe in God, we probably wonder where he is, or perhaps we feel we haven’t figured out the right formula to make him able to change things for us. Living with an addict is not living; it is dying slowly and painfully. Most of the time we have done such a good job of pretending life is normal that no one around us suspects we are in danger of bleeding to death.

…say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come…

Isaiah 35:4

If you or someone you know is dealing with a similar situation, God is there and can help. Please comment below or email me privately at laurabennet14@gmail.com

 

 

 

Living With an Addict – Part 4


The unpredictability of life with an addict causes stress and inner turmoil.

 

We’ve been looking at the patterns of living with someone who suffers from an addiction, specifically in the area of sexual addiction. Often we can be lulled into a lifestyle of survival, minimizing, denial and isolation that becomes our new normal. We don’t actually know what “normal” looks like especially if we’ve grown up in these patterns of life and then married into them. The patterns become engrained in our soul and offer a familiar, even if destructive, way to relate.

Recognizing and examining these patterns is often the first step in becoming free.

  • Lack of unconditional love. True love is not about keeping a spouse happy, or trying to make them love us. Covering for our spouse’s indiscretions, making excuses for them, taking responsibility for their actions, and carrying the weight of the relationship and family is enabling their behavior, not loving them. A sexually addicted spouse may insist that if we don’t perform according to their particular desires, we are unloving, but sexual love is intended to be an outpouring of the love and intimacy we share; a joining together physically of what God joined in heart and spirit. Love never demands, it gives.
  • Rejection. When we don’t measure up to our spouse’s fantasy life or experiences with prostitutes, we are rejected. Even if we have been initially praised for creating a fulfilling experience for our spouse, it will never match fantasy in extreme or frequency and will often be disregarded. We may become the brunt of crude insults in private and even in public due to our lack of sexual prowess. We may be told that if we don’t do or like what they want, we should leave; or they will leave us.
  • Lack of respect. We lose respect for a spouse who is out of control and unkind. We lose respect for ourselves when we are simply an object for someone’s pleasure. That kind of prostitution leaves us feeling used, hated and dirty. If this person who we trusted with our entire being doesn’t respect us with consideration, we see no reason to care for ourselves. Often, our past abuse allows for this perpetuation of disrespect.
  • Lack of trust. Relying on our spouse feels like a dangerous proposition when they choose what pleases them at the moment rather than considering what is best for everyone in the family. Their lack of consideration, and hurtful or cruel behavior keeps us from entrusting them with our hearts and lives. Infidelity is an act of betrayal, and whether a spouse is emotionally involved in an affair, or physically involved with magazine pictures, computer images or women for hire, the betrayal leads to distrust. That environment breeds suspicion and causes difficulty in trusting not only the spouse involved, but anyone.
  • Depression. Slipping in and out of depression can be a daily situation often based on the mood of our spouse. Any affirming overture in towards us results in our hope that things are improving; that a better future waits just around the corner. One minute life seems full of possibility, but if something happens to rock our spouse’s fantasy world, they take it out on us. In devastation, we are without hope and despairing that life will always be hellish. We may feel a diminished ability to think or accomplish simple tasks one day, but then feel as if we can conquer the world the next. Bouts of depression becomes longer lasting with fewer good days between. Suppressed fear and anger cause us to rage at our children or burst into tears. We don’t want to get out of bed in the morning, or can’t sleep at night. Our emotions are out of control from pressing down all we feel in order to hold life together. Our children probably struggle in this way as well.

Next week we’ll talk about intimacy and sex with someone addicted to sex. The dynamics are unique and can be devastating.

Are there other patterns you have recognized or become aware of? How have you become free?
 
For further help or prayer, please leave a comment or email Laura privately at laurabennet14@gmail.com

Living with an Addict – Part 2


Some signs of addiction are obvious.

But sometimes we become so accustomed to a dysfunctional life, that we can miss even the most obvious signs of trouble. I often felt like I was crazy because what I believed to be normal seemed like a fantasy; and the reality of my confusing life became familiar–a new normal.

Last week I shared some of the patterns I became aware of once I realized it wasn’t me who was crazy; it was the life I was surviving that lacked sanity. As I previously shared, most of these patterns can be related to any addiction, but my experience involved sexual addiction.

Someone addicted to sex probably:

  1. Covers their shame by belittling you. The cycle of shame involved in sexual addiction is so overwhelming that the addict may attempt to rid themselves of it by diverting it to their partner. This may take the form of mocking a spouse who is hesitant to participate in sexual activity by telling her she is prude, frigid or self-righteous, or labeling normal intimate relations as wild or erotic. The addict  tries to justify his behavior in his own mind by making it seem normal in comparison to a “prude” partner, or by portraying it as a shared fantasy with a spouse who is as obsessed as he. A spouse’s role as wife and mother may be mocked verbally, for example telling the children she’s crazy and not capable of caring for them; or with actions like forcing her to sit in the back seat of the car.
  2. Is Deceptive. Needing to cover up his addiction, the addict must lie–a fantasy life takes on reality in their mind so they themselves are deceived. They often excuse frequent extended absences by stating, “I ran into an old friend,” “I lost track of time,” or “I had to work late.” Naturally, those situations do occur, but if lies about money, friends, work hours, activities and broken promises happen repeatedly, it could indicate a problem. Sometimes the person my be sneaky or elusive. Rarely does he follow through.
  3. Is irrational. The longer the addict lives in a fantasy world, the harder it is for him to discuss things rationally. His fantasy objects do and say exactly what he wants so he simply can’t carry on a reasonable discussion about real life issues. He may jump from subject to subject due to his imaginary way of coping. Issues are rarely resolved in this confusing setting.
  4. Is obsessed in other areas. Hours in front of the television, sleeping, overworking, working on hobbies, playing sports, alcohol abuse or frequenting the computer late at night may be tell tale signs of addiction.
  5. Has consistent conflicts with other people. Someone at work, on the baseball team or in his circle of friends is a constant irritation to the addict. He blames every bad situation on someone else. Changing jobs, teams, hobbies or friends doesn’t alleviate the situation. Frequent moving or job changes may give the impression of a new start, but the problems remain. The person may be well-liked or charming, but relationships don’t progress to anything beyond shallow conversation. Friendships may be many, but detached and without substance. The addict refuses accountability.
  6. Avoids intimacy. To the addict, intimacy is a threat–what goes on in his mind must stay hidden.  They regard the normal need and desire of their spouse to be treated kindly, considerately and gently as strange, sick, demanding or emotionally needy. Often sex is used to “fix” conflict in relationship, or as an escape to avoid issues. Most addicts equate sex with love. They only desire physical satisfaction and insist that sex will cause intimacy; their spouse should prove her love with sex. They may say, “I need you to have sex with me to show you are committed,” or “If you really love me, you will do what I like.” The addict takes sex; he doesn’t share intimacy.

Next week, I’ll address how the spouse of an addict may feel as a result of these patterns. Life will not always be this way.

Perhaps these patterns exist in your home or your life…what is your experience? Do you know someone who needs help?
 
Feel free to comment or send me an email at laurabennet14@gmail.com
 

Helpful resources: An Affair of the Mind  by Laurie Hall; puredesire.org; In The Name Of Submission by Kay Strom (dealing with violence)

 

 

Love, War and Sex


My husband and I celebrated our third year anniversary this week. We were fortunate to take off for a few days on an adventure of zip lining through the forest near our home (Mt. Hermon Redwood Canopy Tours), then on to Half Moon Bay where we enjoyed good food, window shopping, long conversations, watching airplanes land and a lot of laughing! We also took a book to read together.

I wrote a bit about this book in a post a couple of months ago titled Relationships. The book, Love and War by John and Stasi Eldredge is the most helpful guideline we’ve discovered for our marriage. We’re reading through it a second time. That’s how good it is!

One of the challenges of dating online from two different continents was the sporadic, cyber life we inhabited. Writing emails and long Skype chats gave us the benefit of knowing so many details about each other; our emotional roots went deep. But we missed out on daily dating life which could have enlightened us about our dysfunctional ways of relating. Love and War is helping us understand our messed up perspectives, and what to do about them.

Like many couples, we’ve harbored messed up perspectives regarding sex. Negative childhood experiences, societal messages and lack of understanding this awesome God ordained ecstasy all contributed to our twisted perceptions. John and Stasi Eldredge offer some intriguing and fabulous insights about sex, why we end up with warped ideas and what to do about it. We’re learning a lot.

So at one point during our anniversary get away (sorry, no specific details here!), we discussed our intimacy while lying in each other’s arms. Part of the discourse went something like this:

“Honey, I’m thinking that sex can be analogous to two things,” I mused.

“What’s that, darling?”

“Well, I think it can be like a wedding feast. You know, like Chris and Sabina’s wedding (Chris is our son in Poland who just got married in November); hours of eating, dancing, drinking and toasting, fun and spending great time in relational celebration. Making love should be a celebration of intimacy, relationship and good things.”

“I think you’re right. What’s the other analogy?” Brendan asked. He loves analogies.

“Sex can also be like fast food. Quick, without substance or much thought and no intimacy. I mean they both satisfy a need; get the job done, but isn’t a feast better than a Big Mac?”

“Yeah,” he paused to kiss me. “It is.”

We shared another kiss and felt the promise of feasting stir our hunger.

“Brendan?” I murmured.

“Yes, darling?”

“You know I’m going to have to blog about this, right?”

“I reckoned you would,” he chuckled.

The weekend feast surpassed our expectations. Thank you John and Stasi.