What movies and sit-coms leave out when it comes to sex

Couple Close UpThere is little left to the imagination in most movies or television shows when it comes to sex.  But STDs get little or no airtime.  Sexually transmitted diseases are like the “he-who-must-not-be-named” character who never appears on screen.

This isn’t surprising.  STDs don’t have any positive qualities.  They are not like an unplanned pregnancy that may be poorly timed and challenging to deal with, but results in a small human being, of infinite worth.

But STDs are a real part of the story of modern sexuality and worth talking about – mostly because they can cause significant and sometimes lasting damage.

STD rates are at an all-time high, according to a just-released report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  New national data shows that cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are climbing in the U.S. and have reached an all-time high.  The report shows that though rates of these sexually transmitted diseases fluctuated over the last five years, all three spiked in 2014. The center called the increases “alarming.”

The volume of chlamydia cases last year was particularly alarming.  Nationwide, there were about 1.4 million cases, the highest number of annual cases of any condition ever reported to the CDC.  (For prevalence rates from the report, click here.)  “STDs are a substantial health challenge facing the Unite States,” the CDC report summary says.  “Each of these infections is a potential threat to an individual’s immediate and long-term health and well-being.”

Chlamydia and gonorrhea are common and curable diseases, but if untreated can cause serious problems such as infertility in women.  Officials estimate that undiagnosed STDs cause 20,000 women in the country to become infertile each year.  I have also read reputable sources who believe chlamydia can negatively impact fertility even when treated.  This is one of the reasons Lighthouse provides free testing for chlamydia and gonorrhea. We want women to understand and appreciate the fragility of their fertility, and take steps to protect it. (We also offer the free testing to men because they are part of both the problem and the solution.)

Health officials recommend using condoms during sex to prevent the spread of these diseases. But condoms are not 100% effective – even when used correctly – and they are 0% effective at protecting you from a broken heart.  There is another way to protect yourself from the negative consequences of sex:  limit your sexual activity to one partner for life.  Trust someone with a whole-hearted commitment, before you entrust your physical and emotional health to them.

Abstinence before marriage doesn’t sound very sexy.  But it definitely deserves our attention.

The Difference a Dad Makes

In New Jersey, a father cannot legally prevent an abortion, but he can prevent his child from being placed for adoption by withholding consent. Given these realities, what role can a father play in an unplanned pregnancy decision?

A typical guy might feel he is being supportive by telling the mother of his child, “I will support whatever choice you make.” But is that really support – or more pressure on an already conflicted woman? Now she is left to guess and stress about what this man really wants, how much he cares about her, and whether he will resent her and the baby for changing the course of his life.

What if a father had the courage to speak up? The following account is fiction, penned by Jan Ellison in her novel “A Small Indiscretion,” but I’d like to think it’s closer to the truth.

At the clinic, we went to the window and gave them my name. They didn’t ask for his name, only his money. It was my ordeal, apparently. It was my child. Did I think of you as a child? At least a part of me did. … I could not persuade myself that the life inside me was not a life. I could imagine a baby growing readily enough. A fetus that, uninterrupted, would grow eyes and eyelashes and limbs and fingers and toes. It would open its eyes and they would be blue, like your father’s.
In the clinic that day, I didn’t say any of what I was thinking out loud. I sat next to your father and filled out the forms and turned them back in at the counter.
We didn’t have long to wait. They called my name and I took a step forward. I gave your father a weak smile.
He stood up. He took me by the elbow and sat me down again. He spoke in a low, tender voice, the voice I had until then heard him use only in bed. “You know what?” he said. “I think we could handle this.”
“Handle what?”
“Having a baby. Getting married. All that.” . . . .
“But do you want to?”
“I do. I really do. If you will.”
We left the clinic. …
“Will you marry me?” he whispered.
He kept his forehead crushed against mine, and his face was so close to my face, it was as if I swallowed the question as soon as he posed it. I felt our held breaths as the words burrowed down inside me, where you were burrowing, too, so small but so certain, and where, right beside you, an answer had already been waiting.
“Yes,” I said. “I’ll marry you.”

At Lighthouse, we believe the role of a father is invaluable. That’s why we have men on our staff devoted to helping fathers be responsible, involved and committed dads, as well as loving partners. Please contact us for free assistance if you are facing a difficult pregnancy or parenting decision.

Modified Hours for Week of September 7th

Lighthouse staff will be attending the national CareNet Conference next week and our centers will be operating on a slightly modified schedule.  Appointments are still available during the week and we look forward to serving you.  All 3 Lighthouse locations will be closed on Monday, September 7th, in observance of Labor Day.  Below please find the hours each center will be open for the week of September 7th – 12th.  Center hours will return to normal beginning September 14th.

Hawthorne:
Monday: Closed, Labor Day
Wednesday: 10am-4pm
Thursday: 10am-6pm

Hackensack:
Monday: Closed, Labor Day
Tuesday: 8:30am-2pm
Wednesday: 8:30am-12:30pm
Thursday: 2pm-8pm
Friday: 8:30am-12:30pm
Saturday: 8:30am-12:30pm

Paterson:
Monday: Closed, Labor Day
Tuesday: 12pm-2pm
Friday: 8:30am-1pm

Please note that there are limited ultrasound appointments available as two of our sonographers will be at the training.  Thank you for your patience and understanding.

 

New Paterson Location Now Open

Lighthouse is pleased to announce the opening of our newest location at 75 Ellison Street in downtown Paterson. This 2,600-square foot center began serving the public on August 24, 2015; operating hours can be found on the “contact us” page of our Lighthouse website.  Walk-ins are welcome during our operating hours, but we suggest calling ahead for an appointment (862-257-3820) for the best service.  The Paterson Center offers the same free, confidential services found at our other two locations – plus Steps for Life and additional programming provided by RENEW Life Center. The city’s main bus terminal is located one block behind the center, and parking garage #10 is located next door.

If you are facing an unplanned pregnancy, you don’t need to face it alone.  We look forward to serving you.

Once a Mother, Always a Mother

Mothers’ Day arrives at the height of spring’s beauty, yet it often brings painful memories and conflicted feelings.

Some of this pain is straightforward and simple to understand. To put it simply, moms can be a pain at times. I know and I am. Although my four children are technically all adults (as is my husband), I still feel the need to offer them frequent safety advice and other wisdom. I worry because I am a mother. I second-guess my decisions, because I am a mother.

I am becoming my mother, and that worries me. When I began working at Lighthouse, my 81-year-old mother drove to our house to cook dinner for us. Nine years later, I am driving her old Saturn to a nursing home to fill out her menu. Some days I can’t live with her, but I know it will be hard to live without her.

A more complicated but understood pain connected to motherhood is pregnancy and infant loss. There are few tangible reminders of the child. And grieving a precious little one is more difficult without the usual rituals that accompany an older person’s death. The tinier the person, the greater the loss for words. A recovery guide at Lighthouse, “Threads of Hope, Pieces of Joy,” speaks to this pain.

Arguably the most complicated, least understood pain related to this Hallmark holiday comes from abortion. I say “arguably” because each termination decision is as unique as the woman experiencing it.

Trudy M. Johnson, a licensed counselor who specializes in understanding abortion grief and has personally experienced it, believes that the most common feeling immediately following an abortion is relief. “Unfortunately, Johnson says, “this sense of relief is not always permanent. Sometimes a deep feeling of sadness will set in immediately.” Because an abortion decision can’t be taken back, she believes many women stuff down the sadness in order to move on with life.

Johnson feels this potent mix of relief and sadness is a recipe for confusion and emotional shutdown that can reinforce the isolation and silence of post-abortive women. Her antidote for this is to provide a safe place for women to grieve an abortion loss.

At Lighthouse, we have post-abortive women with open arms, loving hearts, and listening ears, ready to mourn with and mentor others on the path toward healing. Just like a mother would do.

No Grey Area Here: Love Shouldn’t Hurt

A brochure Lighthouse distributes poses a question many will be asking this Valentine’s weekend: “Is it love?”  Those who are newly “in a relationship” will want to know if their infatuation is really love, or how deeply their boyfriend or girlfriend cares for them – perhaps using chocolate or flowers as a measure of love.

Still others will attend a showing of Fifty Shades of Grey, and analyze whether the relationship in the movie is a loving one.  Spoiler alert:  I have not seen the movie or read the books, but since I don’t live under a rock, I have read reviews and seen previews. One psychiatrist, Dr. Miriam Grossman, summarizes the movie this way:

The movie is actually about a sick, dangerous relationship filled with physical and emotional abuse. It seems glamorous, because the actors are gorgeous, have expensive cars and planes, and Beyonce is singing.  

This is what you need to know about Fifty Shades of Grey:  as a child, Christian Grey was terribly neglected. He is confused about love because he never experienced the real thing. In his mind, love is tangled up with bad feelings like pain and embarrassment.  Christian enjoys hurting women in bizarre ways.  Anastasia is an immature girl who falls for Christian’s looks and wealth, and foolishly goes along with his desires.

In the real world, this story would end badly, with Christian in jail, and Ana in a shelter – or morgue. Or Christian would continue beating Ana, and she’d stay and suffer. Either way, their lives would most definitely not be a fairy tale.

I look – not to the movies – but to the Holy Scriptures for my definition of love. The famous love chapter in first Corinthians defines it this way:   Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Recently I have seen real love demonstrated in some unsexy but practical ways.  Like when my husband sits with my mom at the nursing home to calm her anxiety.  Or when he feeds the pets without being asked.  There is a time and place for romance (he actually made dinner reservations for Valentine’s Day!), but it should never include manipulation or abuse of any kind.  Real love doesn’t harm you.  Real love protects and seeks the best for you.

This Valentine’s Day don’t settle for less than real love.  And try something unconventional but safe:  do something loving for someone you care about.  Candy and flowers, optional.

An Unexpected Pregnancy

When we had our second child everyone we met would gush over the kids and tell us we had the perfect family, a daughter and a son.  I remember telling a friend I was pregnant with my third, and her response was, “Oh no!”  I assured her that my husband and I were actually quite happy with the news and she quickly back-peddled.  It was at that moment I realized that the rest of the world thinks we are off our rockers for wanting a large family.  I came from a family of 9 children, so a big family was normal for me, but even my own sister (whom I adore) thinks I am nuts. Every family is different.  Every parent has their own ideas about what a perfect family looks like.  Our attitude was: the more the merrier.

Until I discovered I was pregnant with my seventh child.

Ken and I were just coming off a particularly stressful couple of months and we did not take the news well, neither of us.  I am ashamed to say that most of our reasons were selfish, materialist and vain.  We were embarrassed of what people would say.  For some reason we thought that 7 children pushed the limits of big family to reality television family.  And our current van (a conversion van that we call Relaxi-taxi) would be too small.  That pretty much summed up my feelings right there:  Our conversion van was TOO SMALL to fit our family.

For 10 weeks we complained to each other about our secret news.  I would be 8 months pregnant for our family Disney trip.  The baby would be born at Christmas and make everything even busier than usual.  We needed a new van, a bigger one.  What would people say?  There was another tuition to think of.  . .the list went on.

And then I miscarried.

I can’t adequately put into words the guilt and shame we felt.  Our baby that we didn’t want, was gone.  He or she was no less our baby, than the joys of our lives, but for stupid reasons, we never let our hearts fall in love with him. We rejected this precious gift of God because it was inconvenient.  We didn’t deserve to parent her.   She deserved better.

Suddenly the things that stressed me out before made me mourn.  We wouldn’t have a baby at Christmas. I will always think of my little angel at Christmas time and miss him.  I actually wanted to be 8 months pregnant in Disney (at least a little).

I think it caused me to grow up.  What other people say behind my back isn’t as important to me anymore.   So people wouldn’t think the van I drive is cool.  Let’s be honest, no one but my 5 year old nephew thinks the van I drive now is cool, and it’s only because he thinks it’s an ambulance.  12 passenger van, bring it on.  Another tuition to pay?  God will take care of us, He always has.

My skin grew thicker.  People’s opinions of our family planning don’t matter to me.  Their assumptions that we are probably mooching off the government are incorrect.  Hopefully we are raising responsible children with a strong work ethic (at least we hope they pick that up eventually) to love and serve others.  But even if no one else sees it that way, it’s okay.  I can let it go because I know what matters to me.  And clearly it’s not the car we drive.

Harder though, is letting go of the guilt.  I couldn’t help but feel that God took my baby because I didn’t deserve him, and truthfully I didn’t.  I never got to hold him or nurse him.  I never got to tell her I really do love her.  I will always regret that!

It’s just a reminder to me of my sin.  I deal with the sin of my children every day.  I guide them to make better decisions and have better attitudes.  And then there was me and my awful attitude.  Only God could guide me through that and change my perspective on life.  Life is what is truly valuable.  All life.

Thank God that Jesus gave His life so that we could be forgiven from our sins and released from the guilt that comes with bad decisions and poor attitudes.  For that I am forever thankful.  I look forward to the day when I will meet my little one in heaven and tell him how much I truly do love him, and what a privilege it was to be his mom for 10 weeks.  It really would have been merrier with her in our lives.  I learned that lesson the hard way.

Hebrews 10:22-23
Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.

Lighthouse shares this true confession with the permission of author KJBurres, who bravely shared it on her own blog dated Jan 27, 2015.

Centers Closed – Tuesday Jan 27, 2015

Due to the anticipated storm and wintry weather, Lighthouse centers in Hawthorne and Hackensack are closed today.  We will reopen on Wednesday, January 28.  If you would like to schedule an appointment for either center, you may email help@lighthouseprc.org or text us at: 201-677-2394.  We look forward to providing free, confidential services to assist you at this challenging time in your life.

A Hope For The Future

If the women coming to our centers with unplanned pregnancies this December had wish lists, at the top would be the ability to look into the future to see the results of their pregnancy decisions. But there is no “Ghost of Pregnancy Decisions Future,” crystal ball or money-back guarantee we can offer as they decide their next step.

What Lighthouse can offer them – and you – is an ultrasound and a few visions of Pregnancy Decisions Past.

  • Rebecca – a new mom at 17 – shared this about her experience at Lighthouse at our 2006 fundraising banquet.
    When I first found out I was pregnant, my life was completely changed. The counselor I met with at Lighthouse was Pam. We met weekly for a long time, and she helped me realize that God has a plan for all of us, that everything that happens, happens for a reason – whether it was planned or not.
    Rebecca recently returned to our Hawthorne center with 15 third-grade Brownies in tow, including her daughter Madison! Not only is her beautiful daughter a blessing to Rebecca, but she and her friends blessed Lighthouse with diapers, baby food, blankets and other essentials for the families we are serving.
  • Kari came to our center in 2009 as a junior in college. She already had an abortion appointment scheduled, when she came to Lighthouse for an ultrasound. There were a lot of forces pressuring Kari to terminate the pregnancy, but holding onto the image of her preborn son, she chose life. With permission, I share one of Kari’s recent Facebook posts:
    Justin: I’m going to get Santa a present.
    Mom: What are u going to get him?
    Justin: I think he’d like a guitar.
    That’s my very thoughtful boy. I’ve never heard of anyone thinking of getting Santa something.

Over and over again, we hear Lighthouse moms say how thankful they are to have chosen life. We can’t guarantee that life will go perfectly, but we can remind them that God has a wonderful plan for every life.

May the peace and joy of Christmas be yours, no matter what challenges you are facing today.

To Abort or Not Abort?

To abort or not to abort; that is the question on the minds of many women, men and teens we serve at Lighthouse. New Jersey has the second highest teen abortion rate in the country, and abortion is often the first option that comes to mind for young adults facing an unintended pregnancy – especially if they are headed to college or on their way to earning a degree.

It would be simpler under these circumstances if you could take a pill and become “unpregnant” (a time- travel pill perhaps that rolls back the clock to a pre-pregnancy time?).  But even a chemical (non-surgical) abortion is not a magic pill free of complications or consequences. Ending a pregnancy this way can be a more intense experience because the woman is usually home alone when the pill takes effect.

Giving birth to a child is also an intense experience – especially if you’re alone and unsupported. But being alone is a temporary experience. Abortion is a permanent, irreversible decision.  At Lighthouse, we frequently see women and men who wish they could turn back the clock to a time before their abortion experience. Sometimes their regret sets in as soon as the pill is swallowed – sometimes it is several days or years later.

Lighthouse Pregnancy Resource Center wants to offer you services before you make a decision, so that you understand the consequences and possibilities of all your choices. Don’t look back with regret on what might have been. If you’re facing an unplanned pregnancy, come see what Lighthouse offers to help you move forward with confidence and caring support.