Monday, January 30, 2017

What Women Should Do to Prepare for Marriage

The church and culture today do little to train or prepare women for marriage. In fact, they often teach or encourage bad habits that undermine preparation for marriage. Chief among the harmful philosophies women absorb is feminism, which tells them they don't need a man and don't have any specific womanly roles in a marriage to even prepare for.

In reality, there are a number of things women should be doing to prepare for marriage. Here are just some of them.

– Studying what their role would be in marriage and what their husband’s role would be and embracing this vision for marriage.

– Understanding the authority hierarchy of marriage and how important it is.

– Studying apologetics so they are prepared to teach their future children about the evidence for Christianity.

– Practicing proper submission to authority, self-control, wisdom, care for children, house keeping, and other godly traits for wives.

– Learning to build up a man through encouragement and support.

– Practicing good money habits so that they will be able to live within their husband’s income and frugally so as to lighten his burden of provision and ensure that she can be home with the children and not forced to work. This includes, at minimum, avoiding debt of all kinds and avoiding unnecessary spending on luxuries.

– Practicing teaching children and learning about their needs and how to care for them.

– Learning to control their tongues to avoid being bossy, argumentative, nagging, vulgar, or foolish with what they say.

– Developing a feminine attitude and demeanor that embraces their God-given and uniquely feminine traits and abilities.

– Practicing discretion and modesty in all things.

– Being chaste and having a proper understanding of Biblical sexuality, which includes sex being only within marriage but given freely within marriage, and also understanding what sex means to a man.

– Learning how to resolve conflict peaceably.

– Learning how to place others first.

– Keeping in shape and developing good eating habits and hygiene.

– Learning to cook healthy, nutritious, and delicious food and to do so frugally.

– Learning to clean and organize a house effectively and to keep it maintained in a state of order and cleanliness.

– Learning wisdom and proper priorities in life so that they are prepared to provide wise help to a husband and not blow issues out of proportion.

– Evaluating men on character traits and practicing being attracted to good character over looks or style. Also, realizing that there isn't just one soul mate out there who will show up at the proper time, but that there are only better or worse choices that she can make (and that she will have to live with).

– Getting what education they can without going into debt. This would ideally be in a field that will help with future training of their children (science, math, education, child development, etc) or that provides skills to help a husband or run a household (bookkeeping, home economics, gardening, canning, etc).

I’m sure there are others as well, but these are some of the major ways that women can prepare for marriage. There's a lot more to it than most women know. Not all of these need to be complete before marriage, of course. There's always more to learn. But working on these areas and having an awareness of the gravity of marriage and the skills required of them will make women better prepared to be good wives and mothers.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Feeling Used and Unrealistic Expectations

I hear from women fairly often that they don't like sex because they feel their husband just wants their body and they feel used. There are women out there who have really selfish or abusive husbands, but many times when women have this feeling, the problem isn't the husband being awful. It's the wife having unrealistic expectations.

For one thing, men don't have quite the expectations about sex that women have. In many cases, men want the sex itself while women want everything around the sex like feeling close. And while women like to integrate everything, men tend to think of things separately. Women tend to multitask, but men tend to focus. While a woman is wanting sex to be everything about their relationship all rolled into one, with appreciation for minds, emotions, bodies, and abilities as part of the experience of sex, men are usually just wanting to focus on the physical at the moment. So when that happens, women might think they're only being appreciated for their bodies and they get offended. But it's not that they're only being appreciated for their bodies. It's just that appreciating her body is what the man is focused on at that time.

There's a scene in the old Cary Grant movie Arsenic and Old Lace where Cary Grant's character, Mortimer, has just eloped and he takes his brand new wife back to her house to pack her things for their honeymoon trip. He's chasing her around a tree in the yard, hinting at how much he's looking forward to that night, and tells her she's so beautiful. She responds by saying "But Mortimer, you're going to love me for my mind, too." He says cavalierly, "One thing at a time!" He's focused on just one thing at the moment, and it's not her mind.

There's nothing wrong with that. It's okay for men to have that urge and fulfill it within marriage. It's okay for a man to appreciate his wife's body without also paying homage to her mind every time. People used to understand this. The movie came out in 1944. Today, it would be called sexist. But you can't change human nature. It's okay to focus on just the physical sometimes. It doesn't always have to happen on the woman's more emotional turf, where she is most comfortable. It doesn't have to be all candles and going slow. It can be raw and needy and gritty and crazy too sometimes.

If you get your ideas about sex today from Hollywood or pretty much any kind of media, they depict sex as both man and woman crazed for each other and can't keep their hands off each other and it just happens. And it's usually so romantic. Candle-light and soft music, staring into one another's eyes, etc, etc. The problem is, this is not real life.

I'm not saying sex can't be romantic. Only that it isn't always romantic, and it doesn't have to be. And you don't have to both start out equally passionate. It's okay to start and then get warmed up as you go. It's okay to not be in the mood, but engage anyway and let yourself get carried away.

When you're married, you're not the only one who matters any more. You're one with someone else. And if they have a need, you have a need too, even if you don't feel it. Meeting that need might take some sacrifice sometimes.

It's okay for sex to sometimes be about meeting a need or giving to the other person and not about romance. That's not being used. That's being unselfish.

Being used is when you have sex outside God's plan - outside marriage. Those people in the movies who have all the candles and music and can't keep their hands off each other, but aren't married? They're using each other. It looks like romance, and our society tells us that's the proper context for all sex - some feeling of love and passion. But without a marriage, they're using one another. They wake up in the morning and they have no commitment to one another. They walk away, not giving of themselves, but thinking about what they got from one another. A feeling. For a little while.

In marriage, it's different. In marriage, you belong to one another, so there's no taking from one another. You're not being used. You're fulfilling the vows you spoke to one another. You're doing what you're supposed to do together.

Ladies, embrace your husband wanting your body and revel in his appreciation of it. There are times for appreciating minds and times to just be physical together. Learn to love the way you can both drive your man crazy and satisfy him too. God made you to do this. It's not bad to embrace the physical side of your relationship, and that side isn't less important than the emotional or mental side. Your marriage needs both.

If you need to make some changes to make it feel better or to add some romance, that's fine too. But don't fall for the world's idea that sex without romance is necessarily bad or being used. When you belong to one another, giving freely to your spouse is a gift to yourself as well.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Foil Dinners

This isn't so much a recipe as a set of guidelines and ideas for making your own. There are about a million different ways to make foil dinners and they're so easy and can be customized for every member of the family. I'll tell you how I usually do it and also give some other ideas. Then have at it yourself to make it the way you like it.

You start with about a 2-foot-long piece of aluminum foil. I recommend the non-stick kind, but you can use the ordinary kind with a little spray of non-stick cooking spray in the middle.

Add your raw meat first. I use a hamburger patty. You could use chopped steak or cut up a beef roast or even use a chicken breast instead. Season the meat as you prefer. I like the Kroger brand hamburger seasoning or McCormick's Montreal Steak seasoning on hamburgers. Then just put the meat in the center of the foil.

Next add potatoes. I recommend red potatoes with the skin on cut into bite-sized chunks. You can use yellow potatoes or russets too. They can be chunks or wedges or those tiny little whole potatoes. Mix a little butter or olive oil with the seasonings of your choice. I use salt, pepper, garlic powder, and either rosemary or Mrs. Dash. Toss the potatoes in the oil and seasonings until coated and pile them on top of the meat.

Add veggies of your choice. Carrots and celery are my favorites to go with hamburger. My husband and I are not big fans of onion, but if you like onion, it would work well in this. You could do broccoli with chicken. Be creative and use what you have. Just chop the veggies into smaller pieces as needed and pile on top of the potatoes.

Then when you're done, take the ends of the foil and pull them up over the top and crease them together, then roll them over a couple of times to make them stay. Take the sides of the foil and fold or roll them up until you have a bundle of foil that is relatively sealed, with all the food inside. Place on a cookie sheet or in a baking pan and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour.

That's it! When it's done, it's ready to serve. There may be some oil and liquid in the bottom of the foil, so be sure to keep a tray or plate under it at all times or it will make a mess. You can eat it out of the foil or transfer the contents to a plate (which I recommend).

Not only can you customize this recipe to your preference, but you can customize it for every member of the family. If some of you like onions and others don't or you have a child who doesn't like celery or different people like different seasonings on their meat or potatoes, it's easy to make everyone happy. Each person's meal is in a separate piece of foil, so it's easy to make them different if you want to. You can even have the kids prepare their own if they're old enough. Then just put all the foil bundles on cookie sheets and cook them at the same time.

It's great for singles too who want to make several meals at once with minimal time invested and yet don't want every day's meal to be exactly alike.

If you have a person with allergies, this also allows you to make their food different by leaving out things they are allergic to while everyone else can have it in theirs. If allergies are an issue, be sure to put the special foil dinner on a different cookie sheet or baking pan as liquid may run out of the bundles and thus cross-contamination could occur.

Hopefully, you'll have fun making foil dinners as they're an easy solution for dinner that makes everyone happy. Be sure to leave a comment if you find an especially helpful tip or combination that you would like to share. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Effects of a Contraceptive Mentality

The topic of contraception is a controversial one in Christian circles. There are a number of common "contraceptives" that have the real potential of ending a new human life and thus can act as abortifacients. There are other methods that do not, but that some still claim are immoral. Some believe you can use some forms of contraception morally while others believe that any type of pregnancy prevention is sinful. And there is much to be said on that topic which I will not discuss here.

But even if someone has no problem with contraception per se, there is a real danger in having a contraceptive mentality - a mentality that children are burdens to be avoided, that sex has no link to procreation, and that our fertility is and should be completely under our control.

This contraceptive mentality is not only a false view in that it does not match reality, but it leads us astray from God's plans in many ways. Here are just a few of them.

-It teaches us to think of children in terms of what they can do for us or how they fit into our plans instead of what they can do for the world and for God.

-It causes us to think that children are commodities - to be obtained when we want them for our own personal happiness - instead of the precious gifts from God that they are.

-It prevents us from fully embracing the procreative potential of the marital act and the blessing that comes from being open to new life.

-It encourages immoral sex by taking away one of the major consequences that often caused previous generations to think twice before engaging in an act that can create a child.

-It leads to a culture that sees babies as the enemy of sex and encourages disposing of them to avoid the responsibility of parenthood.

-It gives women a false sense of security about their own fertility, leading them to delay marriage and childbearing, with often tragic results.

-It separates dating and marriage from parenthood such that many people neglect to choose their dating and marriage partners according to criteria that would make them good parents.

-It produces many unplanned, and even crisis, pregnancies from people engaging in sex when a pregnancy would be difficult or in situations where there is no stable home to raise a child.

-It harms children born out of wedlock and raised without married parents.

-It removes the norm of openness to new life within marriage and makes decisions around childbearing and parenting more complicated.

-It causes married couples to see their fertility as a liability and their intimacy as something that must be medicated instead of a gift.

-It prevents people from planning properly to be able to afford children, leading them to make life decisions that would make providing for and caring for children difficult.

While contraception is not necessarily inherently immoral in that it is possible to prevent pregnancy without sin, a contraceptive mentality is extremely destructive to individuals and to society at large. And once it has become culturally entrenched, it is so often accepted without thought by even those, such as Christians, whose worldview would normally contradict this mentality. That is why it is so important to examine our views in the light of scripture and develop a comprehensive Biblical worldview rather than uncritically accepting the prevailing views of the culture.