by Kristin Bonham

This month on the Beautiful Blog, we are talking about Mind Games.  In other words, thoughts and emotions and how we as women deal with stress, fear, grief, depression, etc.  You will be reading authentic stories of hope and renewal that also include those details we don’t really like to admit to or talk about. 

There is a language that you learn to speak and recognize in others when you have gone through any of these things.   From your experiences, you can identify the signs and when a woman uses certain words, they can trigger an understanding and compassion toward what she may be going through.  More and more women are struggling silently and our desire is to start the conversation in order to hear each other, understand each other, and help each other. 

I remember talking to a lady in front of the church about 10 years ago and she said something that caused me to ask if she was depressed.  Surprised by my question she asked me how I knew.  I knew because I had been there. 

17 years ago, Chris and I packed up our family and moved from Orlando to Tampa.  I thought that it wouldn’t really be that hard!  I thought, “I will just find friends who fit into my life like the friends I am leaving behind.”  Well… basically, I was unprepared for the grief that comes with letting go and experiencing a major change.  I kept trying to push through and suck it up and act like I was fine.  I was in denial. 

I went through a time of deep depression.  I struggled getting out of bed.  My 3 year old would beg me to play with him and I just couldn’t do it.  I kept the depth of my struggle to myself because I thought I should be able to get out of the emotional pit I was in.  I was embarrassed.  I felt weak and not at all the person everyone thought I was.  I felt I was disappointing God because Chris and I knew that the move to Tampa was His plan for our lives and I should just be happy.

After months of this, I finally got real.  I talked to someone who could help me and I started being honest about what I was going through.  I talked to my doctor and found out that this was not unusual and I was not crazy.   Slowly, I felt the heaviness lift and with the help of resources and people in my life, I came out of it. 

While I have many regrets when I look back on that time in my life, I can see how God has used it in many ways.  One of the most important things is that I realize that God knows all about my emotions because He created me.  Emotions are not bad; they can be the very things that cause me to figure out what’s going on.  When I finally reached out, I was able to talk about why I was so sorrowful, why I was depressed, and why I was keeping quiet about it.

I learned that the worst thing a person who is depressed can hear is, “just read your bible…, just think about all the good in your life…, just get over it!”  Many different things can trigger depression and there is not a simple solution.  It’s a journey that God is willing to lead us in.  We are mind, body and spirit and to think that we can separate one from the others is not realistic.  When our emotions are in turmoil, it affects our physical being and our spiritual walk.  The false perception is that if we just deal with one aspect, we will get better.  The truth is that God is our answer for it all and he gives us resources that can include doctors and medicines and if we lean into Him, He will show us how to walk out of this and into the freedom He has for us.   

Kristin Bonham is a pastor’s wife and the Women’s Ministry Director at Grace Family Church. She’s been married to Chris for 24 years and is mom to Taylor, Abby and Casey. She loves the beach, New York City and traveling with Pastor Chris to anywhere tropical. She collects books and reads some of them. Her favorite part of the week is Sunday lunch with family and friends around the table.

A Beautiful Weekend is a wonderful opportunity for you to connect with other women, hear powerful teaching and find rest from your busy schedule.  We would love to see you there.  The registration deadline is approaching fast on Monday, August 13th.  Don’t wait any longer to sign up!  

Visit www.abeautifulweekend.com to register.

 

by Rox Yates

I could tell you how I ended up there or all the things I did, but that would take too long and might hurt too much. I could tell you about all the families I probably played a part in ruining, but I can’t count that high. I could tell you about all the celebrities I met or about all the money I made, but it was all worthless in the end.  I will tell you this; I dropped out of college to run a gentlemen’s club.

For the better part of five years I learned everything I know about “gentlemen” from a strip club. I was an eighteen-year-old virgin with a curious stare and open ears who was hungry for money, adaptable to any environment, and charming to a fault. The owners saw all of that in their newly-hired, ninety pound cocktail waitress and promoted me quickly.

Needless to say this atmosphere morphed my beliefs on sex and relationships. But it wasn’t blatant at first. Being thrown into that world was a rapid numbing process, nothing was a surprise anymore. I learned to justify what I was doing with the reasoning that I wasn’t the one taking my clothes off and Jesus would understand that I needed money to live. I worked from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. most nights, and spent my time talking customers into paying for attention or getting advice from strippers. From the age of 18 until I was 23, I took pride in my hustle and the lessons I’d learned:

  • Sex is just sex.
  • To be worth more, wear less.
  • Make a man wait to see you naked for at least one song, but make him wait more than two and he’ll lose interest and walk away.
  • If a guy isn’t showing interest don’t worry, there are plenty of hurt women around that also crave attention you could choose from.
  • Be as fake as possible. Go to any extreme to make your body look more presentable to a man that may only see it once.

Since leaving the club, it has taken me years to let God reprogram my thinking. I’ve learned that I’m not an object and neither is any other female around me.  I’ve learned to value myself and my body, that it’s up to me who I attract, and guys that paid attention to me for the clothes I wore were also paying attention to every other girl that walked by.

Most importantly, I’ve learned that just because you can’t see the consequences to your actions presently doesn’t mean they won’t happen later. It was literally years before I started being hurt by my past decisions, and it’s even harder to see how those mistakes continue to make people around me suffer. Try telling your new Christian boyfriend everything he never wanted to hear from his “future wife,” or revealing a past you’ve kept hidden for so long to your mom.

I can’t change the choices I made in my past, and when I really think about it I wouldn’t even if I could.  Because I had the past that I did, God is getting the glory for making me who I am now.  It may not mean a lot to the people who know me today, but the friends and co-workers who have known me for years have seen a complete transformation in me, and I owe this life to God. He has forgiven me. He has shown me His mercy. When I look back, I really can see how He was always there with me in the darkest place on earth.

You say, ‘I’m rich. I’m wealthy. I don’t need anything.’ Yet, you do not realize that you are miserable, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. –Revelation 3:17

 

Rox is a Christian rapper from Virginia who is actively involved with The Move and GFC’s Worship Team. She is an avid “foodie” who will travel far for a good meal. Rox is also in the process of starting her own non-profit, Raising Shiloh, to benefit young adults aging out of foster care and children’s homes.

 

By Kristin Bonham

 

Two years ago, I was given a book called Permission to Speak Freely written by Anne Jackson.  I was unprepared for the profound impact it would have on me… I was a pastor’s wife, raising 3 kids, leading in a ministry to college age students and “minding my own business”. 

 

In the book, Anne gives herself permission to speak and also invites other women to share the thing they are “afraid to say in church”.  She tells about her addiction to pornography in her late teens and early twenties, how it consumed her and led her into fear and depression.  Anne says that the purpose of the book is simple, “to show you that you’re not alone in your battle with fear and secrets. We are not isolated in our brokenness.”

 

This is where God started opening my eyes and letting me see beyond my own little world.  In middle school, I was exposed to pornography and erotica by a friend and my parents had no idea.  I thought the solution was put those memories away and choose not to think of them again. Easier said than done.  I naively thought I would be able to shield my kids without remembering what it was like for me.  When I read Anne’s book, God was telling me it was time to get my head out of the sand and start being real.  I needed to get over my fear of talking about uncomfortable subjects and be willing to speak up!

 

Last year, GFC had Craig Gross, founder of XXXchurch.com speak at our weekend services.  He talked about the staggering statistics of men and women who are addicted to or impacted by pornography and the sex industry.  Hearing that it is not just a problem for men might surprise many of you, but I suspect not.  If the statistics are even close to accurate, more of us than we realize have been exposed to and are potentially living in a trap set by porn. 

  

Pure Heart by Shellie R. Warren is a book I recommend every woman read.  If you don’t need it, someone in your life does.  If you have young women in your life, they need to read it.  Shellie is very open about her sexual history and brokenness.  She doesn’t pull any punches here ladies!  While I haven’t experienced all that she shares about, I found myself relating to her in ways I had been afraid to look at.  The book cover states, “Whether single or married, all women must cope with issues surrounding body image, lust, adultery, sexual addiction, sexualized images and more.  Shellie helps women understand and embrace the true purpose and role of sex in their lives.”

 

I have been on a mission to put these subjects in front of women and create a safe place for them to be honest and open, unafraid of judgment and condemnation.  Things that are hidden have power and when we bring them out in the open, they loose their strength and the journey to healing can begin.  Pure Heart, along with a Sexual Integrity curriculum, is used in our Beautiful Heart groups starting in September.  For more information, email beautiful@gfconline.com and check out our April blog post about Purity.

 

Kristin is the women’s ministry director for Grace Family Church.  She’s been married to Chris for 24 years and is mom to Taylor, Abby, and Casey.  She loves the beach, New York City and traveling with Chris to anywhere tropical.  She collects books and reads some of them.  Her favorite part of the week is Sunday lunch with family and friends around the table.

 

 

By Kristin Bonham

I have to admit that until a few weeks ago, I was out of the loop about the NY Times Bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey.  Since then, I have talked to several women who have read it or have been drawn into conversations about it… Apparently, it’s the hottest thing this summer and a “must read”.

In the author’s website description, here’s the quote she leaves you with, “the Fifty Shades Trilogy will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.”  Wow.  I have had experiences that I wish I hadn’t, seen images I wish I hadn’t seen, and I don’t want anything that will stay with me forever, especially erotic fiction.  

For the month of July, the Beautiful Blog will be all about Sex.  Women will be telling their stories and we pray you will be inspired and given hope.  We are not judging anyone who has read the books.  We are here to tell the truth and the truth comes best from real people with real stories who have been restored and healed by a Real God. 

The Beautiful Staff agrees that the following article from Dannah Gresh articulates well why we are not reading Fifty Shades of Grey and why you should steer clear of it too.

 

I’m not reading Fifty Shades of Grey.
by Dannah Gresh

I wasn’t planning to announce this, but I can’t help myself. I told my husband, Bob, that I didn’t really want to get involved. But then, I found out my girlfriend’s 70-year-old mom has her name on a long wait list at the library to borrow Fifty Shades of Grey. And then my mom told me that a relative I love and respect for her strong faith had already devoured the book. She regretfully “can’t get the images out of her head.” So, here I am. In an attempt to keep the images out of yours, I’d like to explain to you why I’m not reading Fifty Shades of Grey.

 

Reason #1: Let’s start with the facts. Fifty Shades of Grey is classified as erotic fiction. According to one online dictionary, this genre of literature is defined as that which has “no literary or artistic value other than to stimulate sexual desire.” I’ve been studying what God says about sexuality for fifteen years. According to Him, there is only one who should stimulate sexual desire in me: my husband. Since that’s God’s plan for my sexual desire, anything other than my husband creating arousal in me would be missing the mark of God’s intention. (Translation: it is sin.) Jesus said it this way: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” The same is true of a woman looking at or reading about a man. Reason #1? I believe reading erotica is sinful.

I guess I could stop there, but it won’t be enough for some of you. So let’s go to reason number two.

Reason #2: The Bible has said for thousands of years that lust is hurtful and harmful. Guess what? Biopsychologists and others are studying the effects of lust, pornography, and erotica on the brain and the body. They are finding that the Bible was, in fact, right. Over time your body becomes conditioned to self-stimulation and gratification. It’s not just a preference. It’s physiological. The lust cuts a literal pathway in your brain tissue that’s kinda like a rut. A rut you better be prepared to get stuck in. While at first a little bit of erotica might give you a taste for your spouse, overtime that rut reminds you how great you are at self-stimulation and how powerful your imagination can be. You’ll become less interested in real sex with your husband. (Both SELFmagazine and The New Yorker ran articles on this phenomenon in recent years. They both suggested that if you want to have a great sex life, you better push pause on porn!) The fact is, erotica robs you of real sex. It’s not good for your marriage or future marriage.

Reason #3: OK, we’re girls. And, sadly, a few of our guys have looked at porn. How’d that work for ya? How’d it make you feel? Did it cross your mind that you could never compare to the perfection created by lights, camera, and Photoshop? Well, he can’t compare to a plasticized, vanilla interpretation of manhood either.

Reason #4: Do you know what BDSM is? Bondage, dominance, sadism, and masochism. If you don’t know what those words mean, be glad. If you do know, you should understand that the most damaging part of Fifty Shades of Grey is that God created sex to be a partnership that’s fueled by love and self-giving, not pain and humiliation. It’s not just that this book misuses sex, it redefines it into something evil and transgressive as the lead character dominates in a hurtful manner. How women can enjoy that, I can’t understand! But I do have a theory. It seems to me that in our emasculating culture there is a hunger so great for strong men that women will stoop to Bondage, dominance, sadism, and masochism for just a taste. Do yourself a favor, don’t!

You might be wondering if I’ve read the book. I haven’t. I don’t need to. There are many things in this world I need not partake in to discern that they are going to be harmful to me. God has given me more than fifty shades of truth in His Word and when just one of them is in conflict with my entertainment choices, I choose to pass! To be clear: I wouldn’t drive my Envoy into the front of an oncoming semi-truck any more than I would open the pages of Fifty Shades of Grey. I love my marriage, my God, and myself too much.

If your heart resonates with mine, please take a moment today to post these words on Facebook or twitter: “I’m not reading Fifty Shades of Grey.” If you have friends who need help understanding why, send them to this blog. I’d be happy to explain.

You can see Dannah Gresh’s original post and comments here. 

 

Kristin is the women’s ministry director for Grace Family Church.  She’s been married to Chris for 24 years and is mom to Taylor, Abby, and Casey.  She loves the beach, New York City and traveling with Chris to anywhere tropical.  She collects books and reads some of them.  Her favorite part of the week is Sunday lunch with family and friends around the table.