Choice- Reclaiming the Power in Your Life

Choice. A powerful word, an empowering concept. It has helped me reframe everything that I do and helped me to better own my life. Rather than feeling like a victim of my circumstance or the people around me, I choose what I do, how I react and what I believe. I am no longer dependent on others for my happiness, worth, or even desirability.  I make the choices that influence what I believe about myself.

But choice is not just about how I act, it is what must be granted to feel chosen. If I want to feel desired, than I must let the other choose. I cannot make that happen. But when I become the person that God created me to be, and stop trying to control things that I do not control, then I make it possible for others to choose me.

Choice

From the beginning of time God has given us choice. He instructed Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree of knowledge, and then He let them choose. Would they trust Him and His goodness for them? Would they choose Him, or would they chase after their own desires and suffer the consequences?

We face constant choices. We may not control our circumstances, but we choose how we handle our circumstances.

Taking responsibility for ourselves and our choices, requires maturity and courage.  It is much easier to cast blame on others or the situation at hand, just like Adam and Eve did.

“The serpent made me do it!” replied Eve.

“She gave me the fruit!”, Adam cried.

“I have no one to help me…”

“If only my husband connected with me emotionally then…”

“My wife doesn’t have enough sex with me so I…”

We spend enormous energy casting blame on others. We spew, accuse, vent, cry, stomp our feet, and retreat in silence, while grappling to control that which we cannot control. Satan has deceived us and we eventually indulge in playing the role of victim.

“I cannot be happy unless he makes me happy.”

“If she would make love to me, then I would feel like a man.”

“His desire will prove that I am worth choosing.”

And we lose sight of the power we hold.  But the truth is that we choose who we become, how we act, and what we believe about ourselves.

Agency

Choice gives us agency. Rather than blaming others, we take responsibility for ourselves and become an actor in our own life.  We get to decide how we live; how much we love and who we serve. Rather than waiting for the other, we go first. Rather than doing things as a way to convince others of their need to change, we do them simply out of love. Regardless of how poorly someone treats us, we choose to treat them with love. (And I don’t mean to let them mistreat us. Sometimes the most loving thing that we do is to draw a line in the sand and say, “this is not ok”). But we have the power to choose to do things differently – to love others and extend compassion – even when they are not acting very loveable.

God Himself shows us the way… Romans 5:8 says, But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God did not wait until we chose Him. In fact, some of us may never choose Him. But Christ chose us anyway.

Can we do the same for the impatient grocery clerk that is having a bad day, by extending compassion, patience and kindness? What about our husband that just doesn’t seem to understand how their silence makes us feel unloved?

What would happen if we put the responsibility for our actions squarely on our own shoulders? Not so that we can feel superior, or convince our spouse that they need help, but simply because we choose to love. Can you imagine how empowering it would be to pause when you feel like reacting and remind yourself, I have the power to choose who I want to be and how I treat those I care about.

Loving others is not becoming who they want you to be. Loving others is becoming the person that God created you to be. We treat others with respect and love, and we become more like Christ. As we begin to feel better about ourselves, we become less needy. Choosing to love becomes something that fill us up – not drains us. We don’t have to, we want to. We choose.

Being Chosen

While I have the power to choose my husband, I am slowly facing the fact that I cannot make my husband choose me. Sure, I might complain enough that my husband starts doing those things because he loves me. Or I might tearfully share all the ways he has disappointed me as a way to covertly produce the reassurance of his devotion. I might even share a podcast, hoping that he will learn what I deem important. But if I orchestrate my husband’s behavior, then has he really chosen me? Have I given him a choice?

In order for my husband to choose me, I must let go of trying to control him. Because whether Jim realizes it or not, I know the covert ways that I have tried to feel chosen. If I want Jim to choose me, then I must grow up and stop demanding. I don’t want Jim to love me because I am needy. I want him to choose me, because I am worth choosing. All I have control over is me.

So I shift my focus from Jim, and work toward becoming a woman that is worth choosing. Over and over, every day, I let go of Jim and choose to work on me. What can I do differently? How can I be more open? Do I really want to know him, or do I just want him to give me the answers that I want? Am I sharing my feelings to be more open, or to covertly guilt him into changing? Am I making him responsible or blaming him for my unhappiness, or am I taking care of myself. I stop trying to make him choose me and become a woman that I believe is worth choosing.

Then when Jim does choose me, through the myriad of ways that he cares and love me every day, it feels real. He did it on his own without my help. He chose me.

What if you start viewing life through the lens of choice?

Quiet Your Inner Critic and Feel Satisfied

I have high standards.  I focus, work hard, and I make things happen. But even when things go well, I never feel satisfied. I mean, I’ve spent 10 years teaching Awaken Love to over 1000 women and still felt like a failure. That doesn’t really make sense, but it’s true. I recently discovered through counseling that my harsh inner critic constantly beats me down. It never allowed me to feel the satisfaction that comes when you put your all into something, and let God take care of the rest. I am learning to quiet my inner critic and feel satisfied and it feels so good.

Inner Critic

When I started working on myself, I am guessing that my counselor quickly noticed my inner critic. Meanwhile, I had no idea I even had an inner critic. You see, I didn’t typically hear voices berating me and telling me what an awful job I did. But I did evaluate everything to the Nth degree, leaving me feeling miserable.  I never felt satisfied and always found ways that I did not quite measure up.

For example, this Fall I spoke at Re Engage about How to Create a Meaningful Sex Life. I felt at ease speaking, and could tell the audience was listening and engaged. After I spoke, several people shared how much my talk had impacted them. By all accounts I should have felt pleased and satisfied with the night. But as I thought through my content, I realized that I might have skewed things towards husbands needing to grow. Which spun into, some of the husbands might have felt beat up and discouraged. Which eventually spun into me feeling pretty awful. That night, I hadn’t heard my inner critic beating me up, but I sure felt it.

As I continued to learn about the inner critic, it all came to a head one night. My husband and I had a tough night of sex, where for whatever reason, I felt disappointed. Though I did not vocalize it, my head filled with criticism for all the ways that Jim had not met my needs. Eventually I settled myself down enough to sleep. But in the middle of the night I woke, and as I lay next to my husband, my mind sorted through what had happened. Suddenly I had clarity about my role in our dynamic and I felt remorse. First thing in the morning, I would own what I had done and ask for forgiveness.

Out Loud in the Open

Then, all of sudden, as clear as could be, I heard my inner critic for the first time.

“You F***ing idiot. You do nothing!,”

And instead of getting scared, or shutting it down, I just calmly listened, ready to know the depth of the darkness within me.  Clarity would help me move forward, so I let my inner critic continue…

“Why don’t you do something you F***er. Just sit there and cower. Sit there and take it. What’s wrong with you. F***ing idiot! You’ve done nothing with your life. Are you going to keep hiding? Do something! Ha! You don’t even know what to do!”

And afterward, I just lay silently holding onto my husband and I realized, no wonder I am so critical towards my husband. Look how treat myself.

Since that time, I have not heard my inner critic. But that does not mean it is not there. In fact, I recognize the presence of my inner critic through the feelings that I have in my gut. Those feelings that made me want to take cover during that spoken tirade are the same ones I have felt many times before. The sick feeling of not measuring up, wanting to go into hiding, and feeling paralyzed. I have no doubt that my inner critic had a strong influence in my life, and things need to change.

Quieting the Inner Critic

Many of us struggle with an inner critic. Some might call it insecurities, or anxiety or even an attack from the devil. But many of you may relate. My inner critic has been with me for a lifetime and though it may never completely disappear, I am learning tools to decrease its influence on my life.

Compassion

The antidote to an inner critic is simply giving myself compassion. So, I am learning to quiet my inner critic by saying things to myself like…

  • I am doing the best that I can right now
  • I can learn from my mistakes
  • It makes sense that this is hard for me
  • It will take time for me to change

Evaluate – Don’t Ruminate

I have also decided that evaluating ways to improve and learn is not the same as ruminating about all the ways that I fall short. After just a few minutes to evaluate and think about what I can learn and improve, I must consciously stop thinking about it. I will not be perfect,  and that is ok, because I am human.

Learning to Feel Satisfied

While journaling about what makes me feel angry, sad, afraid, guilty, happy, and satisfied, I realized that I don’t remember ever feeling satisfied. Whether it was a piece of furniture I built, the retreat I hosted, or the sex class I taught, I have never felt satisfied.  I would cringe at recognition, knowing full well how I had fallen short and what needed improvement. Rather than pause to feel satisfied, I quickly moved to the next task.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about what it means to feel satisfied. For me, it means that I bring my best offering, I work hard putting my whole heart and soul into it, and then I release it. I hand it off to God and let Him take care of the rest. If God wants to He can fill in my gaps, or use my mistakes, but He doesn’t have to. He can do what He wants with my offering. And when I release my offering, I take time to see it, acknowledge it and feel thankful. To feel satisfied. For me, taking time to feel satisfied helps to quiet my inner critic.

Final Thoughts

Working on my inner critic is helping me not only treat myself better, but it is helping me treat my husband better. Just like I am learning to extend compassion to myself, I am learning to extend compassion to Jim. Life just feels easier. As I am teaching Awaken Love classes this session, I am taking time to pause, see what happened, acknowledge it, hand the rest over to God, and be thankful. I feel satisfied when I give my all, and my all is enough.

Other News

I promise, I will start writing about sex again. Thank you for being patient with me.

If you live in the Twin Cities I have an in person class starting soon.

 

Facing Core Beliefs Moved Me Forward

It is kind of funny to admit, but when I started counseling, I thought to myself, “I am going to dive in for 6, maybe 8 weeks, and then I will be good to go.” Not only would I be a better me, but I would show my husband just how mature I am. Internally I still hoped my husband would admit his own issues and seek counseling with me. Then the “real” problems could get fixed.

Even though I knew that I needed to work on myself, I still couldn’t let go of thinking that if he changed our problems would disappear.

6 months later, I am so glad that I went to counseling on my own. I have learned so many things about myself that have helped me understand how I operate in my marriage. Couples counseling would have distracted me from the work that I needed to do. And I would have been so tempted to shift the conversation back to Jim. Working on myself has felt empowering. Regardless of what Jim does, I make my own choices about my life, how I live and how I treat others – including him.

Hard Work

The first few months of counseling was gut wrenching hard work. Remembering negative experiences from my childhood stirred up all kinds of emotions as I relived both the details and the way that I coped.

I vividly remembered my first-grade teacher calling role the first day of class. Afterwards she asked, “Did I miss anybody?”

I timidly raised my hand.

“Yes, what is your name? “, she asked.

With as much confidence as I could master, I said, “Uth Inka.”

“What?”, she said.

“Uth Inka”, I repeated.

“What?”

“U t h   I n k a”, I slowly stated, fighting back tears.

My name was Ruth Lenker and I had entered elementary school completely clueless to the fact that I couldn’t say my L’s or R’s.

I felt so small. So invisible.  And so alone. I don’t remember sharing this story with my mom or dad, or anyone else. All I wanted to do was crawl in a hole and disappear.

And that is what I did for years and years. I worked so hard to accomplish things as a way to feel better about myself, to feel worthy and seen, all the while hoping no one would see or hear me.

As I tearfully shared story after story with my counselor, I still felt embarrassed and disgust for my life. And it all came to a head one day…

Core Beliefs

I had been sharing with my counselor about being mistaken as a boy when I was young and she could tell how profoundly the experience had impacted me. And she asked, “so if you were mistaken as a boy, then what would that mean?”…And I just couldn’t go there… I just had to put on the brakes because I didn’t even have the capacity to answer the question.

So my counselor gave the homework assignment to follow my chain of thinking. To start from the fact that I was mistaken as a boy and ask myself, if that is true then what? And if that is true, then what? And to keep following the trail into the core belief that I held about myself.

If they think that I am a boy, then I am a mistake..

If I am a mistake then I don’t belong…

And, If I don’t belong then there is something wrong with me…

If there is something wrong with me then I need to hide…

If I need to hide then make sure you are not seen or heard….

And I gradually named the core belief that

I am not worthy to be seen or heard.

I hate being noticed. I’d much rather slide under someone else, into the background and be a fly on a wall. Introducing myself, sharing my passions, or the amazing things God has done in my life can at times make me feel almost ill. I clam up, I just do… – I suppose because I’ve never believed that I am worthy to be seen or heard.

Admitting my core belief was really hard. I mean, I’m a smart, capable woman that has many reasons to feel proud. And yet, deep down, I didn’t believe that I was worthy to be seen or heard.

As a follower of Jesus, I know that I should just embrace God’s truth about myself. Things like, I am His beloved. Or, I am His masterpiece and He created me anew in Christ Jesus to do the great things that He planned for me. I do believe those things. But it will take time, effort and patience for me to rewrite my core beliefs that I have carried since childhood.

Pressing into Changing My Core Beliefs

Transformation started with an awareness of the core beliefs that hold me back, but that was only the beginning. Living out the truth, that I am worthy to be seen and heard, will require faith, that God can change me. Before I feel that I am worthy to be seen and heard, I will need to act like I am worthy to be seen and heard. When by faith, I take a deep breath, reach out my hand and introduce myself to a stranger with great expectation instead of dread, then I begin to feel worthy. Living in a way  that is congruent with what God says about me, will change the way that I feel about myself. How I act will cement my feelings.

I have faith that God will change me and I press on because God has given me glimpses of a life that is different. Rather than hide, I want to confidently introduce myself and freely share my passions. God has given me things to say, and my playing small does not benefit anyone – especially God.

What About You

So are you living into the fullness of life that God wants for you? What terrifies you, makes your shrink back, or prompts you to feel like you need to prove yourself? Can you name the core beliefs that lurk in the shadows? And what are you going to do about it? Because faith means reaching for that which is not yet true and believing that God can change us.

Sex is God’s Domain

Last week I taught my first in-person Awaken Love class in more than 2 years and all I can say is, “God is moving!” We met on my back porch, where I started teaching classes exactly 10 years ago. Twelve women from all walks of life – young and not so young, newly married, divorced and remarried, and celebrating 34 years. All with the purpose of understanding more about God’s Design for sex in their marriage and eager to reclaim Sex as God’s Domain.

Who We Are

As I welcomed the women to class, I took time to remind them of the realities that we live in today. Among us were women that dreaded sex, others that loved it. Some of our husbands struggle with porn and others don’t want much sex. Some of us have struggled with porn, or masturbation, or experienced abuse in our past. A few of us are still learning to experience the pleasure sex can offer. But regardless of where each of us is on our journey, we can be honest, provide support and  learn together. We are all welcome.

When I teach class and realize the hard realities of women’s lives, I can feel overwhelmed and question whether a little 6-week class called Awaken Love can help. And I have to remind myself, and them, that regardless of our struggles, understanding more of what God wants for us in our marriage and our sex life, will help us have the courage to take a step in the right direction. God’s word about sex is truth, regardless of our challenges.

Diving In

As I looked at class that first night, I just sensed that the room was filled with powerful women, ready to dive in. So, when I asked them to introduce themselves and maybe tell us why they were there, it came as no surprise when one by one, they immediately dove in.

I struggle with

    • purity messages that left sex feeling shameful
    • figuring out how to feel intimate during sex
    • lack of desire
    • conflicted feelings that cripple my freedom
    • navigating my husband’s lack of interest

 

We all have challenges surrounding our sexuality and many of us carry them for a lifetime. But at class last week, these women courageously opened up, already starting to share pieces of their past experiences that still impact their present. Rather than helplessly sitting in their muck, they are choosing to move toward health, wholeness and freedom.

Sisterhood

One of the things that I constantly witness in class is the power of speaking things out loud – face to face, in God’s presence. The shameful truth that constantly haunts and make us question our worth and desirability – when spoken out loud in a room of loving Christian women – is, zapped of its power. In a moment, a breath of lightness falls on the women. What they bring into the light is received with grace and understanding from other women. Things shift and you can feel it happen.

Final Thoughts

At class, these 12 women walked in as strangers and left sisters, claiming by faith that things can be different. They have the courage to press into God, even in the area of sexuality, and fight for freedom. God will break the chains, reveal His truth, and transform their lives. And we will pound a stake in the ground, once again claiming, sex is God’s domain. He alone has the answers and we trust in Him.

p.s. – Thank you to all of you that have been praying for me and my husband. Like many of you, I am digging myself out of the impacts of living through a pandemic and a hard health diagnosis. I have been learning valuable truths and tools that will help me be a better person. My days feel brighter and lighter, and I have to say, it felt SO good to be teaching in person again. Blessings, Ruth

Awaken Love Sex Classes in Kenya

Last Saturday morning at 6:00 AM I woke to teach Awaken Love.

Whoah!! That’s a little early to talk about sex, isn’t it??!!

Not if the women live in Kenya, where the time was 3 pm in the afternoon.

Lily started leading the Awaken Love class in Kenya 5 weeks ago and she had asked if I would zoom in for one of their sessions .  In the class were 8 women – some friends of Lilies, others new acquaintances – all on a mission to learn about sex and create more intimate marriages.

Lily found me last June when she read a review of my book  Awaken Love on Gary Thomas’ website. She runs an online book club in Kenya to encourage women to read books to strengthen themselves and their relationships. She is a true pioneer that is unafraid to dream big and ask with great expectation that God will move!

After leading her book club through Awaken Love, Lily became convinced that she needed to lead a 6 week Awaken Love class that would allow for a deeper dive. I was happy to set up access for Lily to study the video classes and encouraged her to adapt the curriculum as needed. Friends of mine delivered copies of Awaken Love to Nairobi on their way to their mission trip and the pieces slowly came together as Lily and her team continued to pray and trust God in the details.

Along the way I received email messages from Lily …

Oct

I have been struggling with setting up the class. Suddenly I feel so inadequate for the task. I feel too small for what is ahead of me. Pray with us even as we set the date to be mid November. May God give me courage and strength to accomplish what he so desires in his people. Have a blessed day.

Nov

We have pushed the date to January.

I saw the location which we shall use for the classes last week and it is quite a serene place, tucked away somewhere private and accessible. I am assured, the plans are still underway. Pray. Pray for our first participants. We have started recruitment. Sending posters out and trusting God that we will get the numbers. (Not many – even 10 will do.)

Jan

If I had wings to fly, I would have flied to where you are now, just to give you a warm hug to express my joy and gratitude for what your words are doing to women and their marriages.

God gave me strength to start the classes. We had an introductory class and women shared what made them enroll.

We are 8 ladies, 3 will join us virtually while the rest will be meeting physically.

These are the reasons why they chose the class

  1. Feeling of stagnation in their marriages 
  2. Lack of connection in their marriages
  3. The idea that sex should be done for the man
  4. Keeping to self and denying the husband intimacy (i bet this is a direct translation from swahili)
  5. Being forbidden while young then joins the Marriage union with high expectations then feels its a let down, one withdraws, and sex grows cold.

Lily is right. The reasons that marriages struggle with sex are universal.

So at 6 AM  Saturday morning, I dragged myself out of bed, tiptoed into my office and waited for the flickering screen of zoom to let me into the call in Kenya. Though excited, as a middle class white American, I couldn’t help but wonder how the Awaken Love class would translate to women in Kenya.

Just Like Us

But as the women shared their stories, I soon realized they struggled with many of the same things that we do. Some feel like sex is a duty, others wish their husband wanted more sex. Many struggled to see their genitals as beautiful, or something to appreciate and understand. Some questioned whether oral sex is a loving way to connect, or a sin. They all understand the challenges that come from lack of privacy. Some needed help understanding the intricacies of different erogenous zones and how to engage them to create pleasure. They all had very busy lives filled with work, homemaking, and raising kids – yet they chose to devote 6 weeks to understanding sex and improving their marriages. Ladies, we are in this together. If we have the courage, we can claim the freedom that God wants for us.

Regardless of where we live, our social economic background or how old we are, God has a design for sex, that will challenge us, grow us, and can create deep connection . We are all impacted by things that make sex challenging. Awaken Love classes are a powerful resource to begin moving towards the intimacy God wants for us. If you are ready to make a difference for struggling marriages, email me and we can pray and talk about the possibilities. Don’t be afraid to dream big. Our God is powerful.

Future Plans for Awaken Love in Nairobi

Lily is already planning to offer another Awaken Love class in Kenya in March, and that is just the beginning. If you know of a woman in Nairobi that might benefit from Awaken Love, please email bookclublily@gmail.com to find out more information about upcoming classes. Pray for my friend Lily and the women in Nairobi as they claim God’s design for sex.

Awaken Love Class Opportunities

With Ruth

For Wives Starting April 6, Wednesdays at 12 central time meeting over Zoom for 6 weeks

For Wives Starting April 4, Monday Nights at 7 pm meeting in Plymouth, MN for 6 weeks

Email Ruth.awakenlove@gmail.com for more information or to sign up!

With Stacey

For Wives over Zoom Starting March 7th, Mondays at 6:30 – 9 pm central time

Email slwelman@gmail.com for more information or to sign up!

With Lily

For Wives  in Kenya

Email bookclublily@gmail.com for more information or to sign up!

Struggles Create Opportunities for Growth

First, I need to apologize for not following up on my last post sooner. I wrote this a while ago, forgot to post it, and have struggled to face it again. Please forgive me.

My Herpes diagnosis last May created additional struggles in our marriage, but they weren’t really new issues.
My diagnosis just amplified the dynamics that our relationship had always operated under. The added stress of going through the crises brought to light my insecurities, bitterness and anger that raged deep inside and that have been simmering for years. Dealing with herpes is a total bummer, but our struggles have created an opportunity for growth. Rather than just finding a new normal, I am choosing to go after deep healing that will have a much greater impact then my diagnosis.

Realities of Herpes

During a Herpes outbreak, virus levels soar and the chance of spreading the virus increases. Any contact with saliva can pass along the virus. So, in May when I had my outbreak, Jim and I immediately made what some might call drastic changes.

I stopped helping with food prep or even setting the table. Hand washing happened often, with towels designated for my use alone. Jim and I stopped sharing food, drinks or even tooth paste. Helping in the kitchen consisted of me clearing dirty dishes.

As far as physical intimacy, the choices felt even harder. I wanted Jim to decide what he felt comfortable with. After all, I was the one with herpes and he was not. My husband catching herpes would only complicate things. Kissing stopped, all forms of sex stopped and even hand holding stopped. Even though these choices made me feel very alone, I also understood them. During my initial outbreak and my mouth wracked with pain, sex wasn’t exactly the first thing on my mind.

Loneliness Set In

Several weeks later as my body began to heal, the loneliness began to grow. I had given Jim all power of choice in order to help him feel safe and yet I could hardly stand it. I felt untouchable, unlovable and in many ways abandoned. Night after night, I would lay in my husband arms, he would gently kiss the top of my head good night and then I would quietly cry myself to sleep.

How long were we going to remain like this? Was he ever going to bring up a conversation about sex? Couldn’t we at least creatively connect through things like mutual masturbation? I could feel my blood begin to boil and disdain grow at his silence.

Now to be fair, my husband and I were traveling at the time and had just hosted his mom’s memorial service. Jim had a lot going on, and my herpes diagnosis had come out of the blue and shocked both of us. Jim longs for nothing more than to make me happy, and yet he couldn’t cure my herpes. I can imagine how painful it felt for him to hear me grieve. He must have felt overwhelmed.

But with each day my feelings of abandonment and anger about the lack of communication and connection continued to grow. When I tried to help Jim understand how desperate I felt for some kind of conversation that would instill hope, he listened but nothing changed.

A week later I lost it.  With adrenaline pulsing through my veins, I looked my husband squarely in the eyes and calmly told him something I never imagined I would say, “I hate you!” And then with the expletives flying. I let him have it.

Our Dynamics

My husband and I have this unhealthy dynamic in our marriage. We get along great for a while. Then I start thinking that he should lead more or talk more so I kind of hang back hoping that he will step up. Eventually I get impatient and upset and bring up my complaints. He apologizes and says he’ll try harder and then we go back to the beginning.

What played out because of my herpes diagnosis wasn’t any different than our usual dynamic, it was just amplified about 1000 times.  And as I repeatedly entered into this desperate, crazy, angry attempt at waking my husband up to care for me, all I could think was, “This is not who I am! And this is not who I want to be!”

What I Want

My husband may never change, but I do not want to be an angry, bitter wife that can never see the good things about her husband. I want to honor my husband and respect the journey that he is on. Rather than letting things build, I want to communicate my needs clearly in a loving way. But I also want to be ok, when Jim doesn’t meet those needs. I want to have compassion for Jim and inspire him to greater strength to be the man that God created him to be. I love my husband and I want to live that out.

Now I don’t need to tell you all the messy details of what happened as we worked through my diagnosis of herpes, our lack of intimacy, my husband’s passivity, and my anger, but I will tell you that we are in a much better place. In fact, it would be easy to just write off my episodes of rage and chalk them up to the stress of the situation.

But I don’t want to just forget what we went through or how I acted. Because even though this crisis has passed, I know that we will face hard times again. I believe that how I acted during my herpes diagnosis was a window into the brokenness inside of me. I have things to work on and my struggles are an opportunity for growth.

Opportunity for Growth

Last Fall I started seeing a counselor and I have realized just how hard I am on myself. In the past I might have said, “I had to see a counselor”, because I am so pathetic. Today because of the work I am doing, I say, “I get to see a counselor”. You see, it does not serve me or anyone else to beat myself up. I had a choice, and I chose to seize this opportunity for growth. Seeing a counselor comes from a place of strength, courage and health, not from weakness, fear or brokenness.

In order to love others well, I must learn to love myself well. When I learn to take an honest look at myself and extend compassion, then I can see others honestly and extend compassion to them. I want to love my husband, my kids, my friends, my family, and the people that I minister to with a deeper more profound love.

My struggles created an opportunity for growth. I get to see a counselor to help me become a more loving person. And it is super hard work, but in the long run, I know that it will be worth it. I am seizing the opportunity.


Announcements – I am super excited to teach Awaken Love in April with limited spots available.

For Wives Starting April 6, Wednesdays at 12 central time meeting over Zoom for 6 weeks

For Wives Starting April 4, Monday Nights at 7 pm meeting in Plymouth, MN for 6 weeks

Email Ruth.awakenlove@gmail.com for more information or to sign up!

When Life Turns Upside Down

In May, I woke up excited to spend the day playing with my 5-month-old grandson. At lunch I felt a little achy, and by the afternoon I resorted to laying on the couch. That evening, my fever finally confirmed that I was sick. But it wasn’t until a couple of days later that my life turned upside down.

The next morning, I woke up feeling like I’d been hit by a Mack truck. Gingerly I walked down stairs, feverish and achy. When my husband came to great me with a hug, I forcefully exclaimed, “DON’T TOUCH ME!” I felt awful. Yes, I had normal flu like symptoms, but over riding any normal discomfort, my mouth was a nightmare. I had sores on my tongue, my lips, the roof of my mouth, my throat and my gums felt like they were on fire. The pain in my mouth felt excruciating.

For 2 days I laid on the couch, trying to rest and let my body heal. Everything hurt. Getting sustenance involved swallowing a few bites of bland soft food followed by a desperate rinse of water to calm the pain. With my lymph glands swollen and no end in sight, I finally dragged myself to urgent care to find some answers.

After hearing my symptoms and taking a look in my mouth, I am guessing that the doctor immediately new my diagnosis, but I was not in the least bit prepared.

Herpes

As my mind raced, she gently explained, “we’ll test you to make sure, but you most likely are having a herpes outbreak. The first outbreak, you can get pretty sick with flu like symptoms and sores in your mouth. If you have more outbreaks, they won’t be near as severe, just the typical symptom of an open sore around the outside of your lips or nose….”

HERPES.

How is that possible? I’ve been married to the same man for 34 years.

HERPES!

Incurable. What I learned about in health class. Using condoms. I will always have it. I could pass it to my husband, my kids, my grandson. Herpes. What the HECK!

In that moment, my life turned upside down. I felt like I had just been given a diagnosis of Leprosy, I became the untouchable. With my body currently filled with high levels of the virus, life changed in an instant. No more sharing beverages, or tasting someone else’s desert. My husband stepped in to cook and serve our meals, while I quietly took care of the dirty dishes. Afraid that I might kiss my grandson by accident, I chose not to hold him for a while and watch him from afar.

My official diagnosis was Type 1 Herpes – the type typically spread by kissing, or sharing a tooth brush, or utensil, and resulting in sores around the mouth.  But these days, with sexual practices like oral sex, type 1 Herpes can also spread to the genitals.

I retreated from physical touch with my husband to empower him to make choices about his exposure to the virus. Hand holding stopped. Kissing became non-existent. Sex stopped. We had things to consider. Instead of the freedom we had enjoyed, sex might now require careful protection to prevent spreading the virus.  He felt angry, guilty and afraid. I felt dirty and abandoned. It was a dark time.

The Basics

I have no idea where I picked up Herpes.  Two thirds of the world’s population carry Herpes -1 and most of them were exposed during childhood. I might have had herpes all along and something triggered an outbreak. Or maybe I picked it up from a server at a restaurant. Regardless of how I got herpes, I now have it, and the question becomes how do I continue to live while protecting my family from this highly contagious virus.

Now I am going to pause right here, and acknowledge that many, many people have herpes – whether type 1 or type 2. For you, herpes might be a huge struggle, or, herpes might not be a big deal because it has always just been part of your life. I don’t want to judge your journey, or make you feel like it is a bigger deal than it is. I just want to share my story and acknowledge that for many of us herpes is a part of our life.

Whether we struggle constantly with outbreaks, or we never have another one, Herpes does not go away. We can reduce the risk of passing on the virus, but we cannot guarantee that we will not spread it to the people we love. Online information about living with herpes recommends things like always using a condom during sex or oral sex.

Yes, life goes on after a diagnosis, but life does not remain the same. In an instant, life changes and we are forced to have hard conversations, make adjustments, and to grieve the life we left behind.

Final Thoughts

You may not face a herpes diagnosis, but most of us will face at time when it feels like  your life just turned upside down. You might face a diagnosis of breast cancer, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease or some other health issue. Or maybe you finally wake up to the fact that you must battle an alcohol, porn or drug addiction in your marriage. A job change, moving to a new home, or a car accident can send you spinning. Even caring for a prodigal child, special needs child or elderly parents can add huge challenges to intimacy in marriage. Many things can test our commitment to intimacy and a great sex life in marriage.

One of my husband’s favorite verses is James 1:2-3 which says,   When troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 

Even thought my diagnosis of herpes feels like my life turned upside down, I am not giving up. I know that God is going to grow my husband and me through the hard. Life will be different but God has a plan and He is good.

I just want you to know that you are not alone.

(This is first of a 3 part series)

 

Married Sex Online Conference

It is not too late to sign up for the online Married Sex Conference.  Over 25 Christian leaders are joining forces to speak life into your marriage and your sex life. You can listen the talks at your convenience for an entire year, and you will receive a free hard copy of Gary Thomas’s and Debra Fileta’s new book Married Sex. Use code: MARRIEDSEX10 at checkout, to get 10% off the regular admission price

Sign up Now

Equipping Pastors to Talk About SEX

During my years of teaching men and women about sex, I’ve often thought, I would love the opportunity to speak to pastors about what I’ve learned in classes. Most pastors want to help marriages, but many of them may not understand the impact of their silence, awkwardness, or messages. Many of the resources that they’ve looked to for direction in the area of sexuality are skewed towards men and ignorant about the needs of women. So, when the opportunity to record classes that address the topic of sexuality in order to equip pastors came up this summer, I jumped at it.

Mini Courses

I’ve been preparing for a couple of months now and have outlined 3 Mini Courses. Each course has 9 separate topics and I will create a 12-15 minute video for each topic – a total of 27 topics.  Filming takes place this week on Thursday, Friday and Saturday I will teach 2 course live to a group.  Though I am super excited, I know that I have a lot on my plate.

My 3 Courses are

  • Understanding God’s Design for Sex
  • Opening Up the Conversation of Sex in the Church
  • 9 Messages the Church Needs to Hear About Sex.

Here’s a small preview of one of the courses…

9 Messages the Church Needs to Hear About Sex – both corporately and individually.

  1. Our Sexuality Should Always Lead Back to God
  2. God Created Sex for Wives as Much as Husbands
  3. God Wants to Provide Healing – Even in the Area of Sexuality
  4. Simple Answers About Sexuality Don’t Always Exist – Equip and Challenge God’s Involvement
  5. We all Need to Acknowledge Our Own Challenges Addressing Sex
  6. God Never Intended Sex to Become a Duty
  7. Creating an Amazing Sex Life that Lasts a Lifetime Does Not Just Happen – It Takes Hard Work
  8. Porn is a Huge Problem That Must Be Faced Head On – We Battle Porn with Intimacy
  9. We Need to Stop Pointing Fingers at Others – Is Your Marriage Something that Others Want to Emulate?

Eventually I hope to spend time breaking down some of the topics in blogs. But the Mini Course videos will also be available to equip pastors and lay people at Christian Leaders Institute  for Free.

Equipping and teaching pastors is both a huge privilege and a giant responsibility. I am praying that God would give me energy and passion and that the stories I share will communicate God’s truth .

Will you please pray for me as I encourage pastors to step into speaking truth about sex. Will you pray for soft hearts to hear the message and courage to take up the torch?

Wives

Join me for 6 weeks of transformation by signing up for an Awaken Love Class. Check out my schedule for zoom and in person classes.

Married Sex Conference

Don’t forget to sign up for the online Married Sex Conference. They have an AMAZING line up of Christian speakers that you can listen to for an entire year, and you will receive a free  hard copy of Gary Thomas’s and Debra Fileta’s new book Married Sex.

Use code: MARRIEDSEX10 at checkout, to get 10% off the regular admission price

Sign up Now

Here I Am Again

It always feels awkward to start writing after being absent for so long.

I could blame it all on Covid, but honestly, I was about at the breaking point anyway. I needed to just breath a bit – to have the freedom to struggle in my own marriage and sex life without feeling like I needed to write about it, or glean some deep understanding to share. Truthfully, I am just like you. A broken person that sometimes struggles with sex and marriage: that becomes self-righteous, critical, demanding, and darn right nasty.

This Spring I really scared myself. I got so angry at my husband that I suddenly didn’t know who I was. With tears streaming down my face I remember thinking afterward, “that is not who I am, and not who I want to be!” How in the world did I get here?

You don’t need to know the details. What you need to know is that I am reaching out for help. Because what boiled out of me in those moments of anger was not just about my husband. I have wounds deep in my soul that need healing and I will not miss this opportunity. So I am diving into some really hard work and I have no doubt that God is going to meet me in the middle of my mess.

Awaken Love Ministry

As far as Awaken Love, I have been wrestling with what God wants. Marriage ministry can feel overwhelming. Sometimes I feel completely inadequate, other times I feel so sure of God’s calling in my life. Keeping my heart soft to hear peoples hard stories while not carrying their burden requires constant surrender to God. Though I know that Awaken Love is important ministry, I cannot and will not continue without God’s blessing and protection.

A couple of months ago, I wasn’t sure I would ever write about sex again, and now here I am. Though I won’t make any promises about how often I will blog, or what I will write about, it does feel good to put my thoughts… my feelings…. my life… to pen.

What God gives me and breathes into me, I share with you. And so even though it feels a little terrifying, here I am again.

Now for Some Exciting Awaken Love News!

I am so excited to be part of the AMAZING line up of Christian Speakers, Authors, and Pastors  for the ONLINE conference Married Sex.

Check out some of the topics you’ll hear covered at the conference:

  • How to Prioritize Sex in Busy Seasons — Levi and Jennie Lusko
  • How to WOW Your Spouse: Sexual techniques, tips, and tricks — Ruth Buezis
  • Awesome Sex For a Lifetime! — Dr. Kim Kimberling
  • Dealing with a High Drive vs. Low Drive Spouse — Dr. Corey Allan
  • How Porn Impacts Marriage — Dave & Ashley Willis
  • A Great Sex Life in the Stage of Raising Young Kids! — Cait & Cole Zick
  • How Your Past Bagagge Impacts Your Sex Life, and How to Break Free- Lisa & John Bevere
  • Why God Says Sex is Good – Christine Caine
  • The Five Senses of Sex – Gary Thomas
  • Your Sex Problem Might Be a Relationship Problem IF… – Debra Fileta
  • AND SO MUCH MORE
Full of comprehensive, practical, and helpful resources we want to help you create the sex life you want. Access the material for an entire year on your own schedule, and walk away with a solid understanding and renewed appreciation for married sex – God’s way!

Zoom Awaken Love Classes Offered Soon!

Zoom Classes with Ruth Coming in January

If you have always wished you could take an Awaken Love class, now is your chance. This January, I am hosting classes over zoom so that anyone in the world can join.  Classes will be kept to a maximum size of 12 participants so don’t wait to sign up.

Learn God’s truth, strengthen your marriage and transform the culture of sex in the church starting from the ground up.

 

Awaken Love for Wives

Tuesday Lunch Time meeting Jan 5, 12, 19, 26, Feb 2, 9 from 12:30 – 2:00 pm US central time.

Or

Wednesday Night meeting Jan 6, 13, 20, 27, Feb 3, 10 from 7:00 0 8:30 pm US central time.

Cost of 6 classes is $20, plus buy your own copy of Awaken Love on Amazon. Email Ruth at ruth.awakenlove@gmail.com to sign up and get the special registration link,

To learn more about classes go to Awaken Love for Wives.

 

Men’s Edition

Wednesday nights meeting Feb 17, 24, March 3, 10, 17, 24 from 7:00-8:30 US central time

Cost of class is $20. Email Ruth at ruth.awakenlove@gmail.com to sign up.

To learn more about classes go to Men’s Edition