The Graham Cracker, Pornography, & Why Quick Fixes Don’t Work

the-graham-cracker-pornography-why-quick-fixes-dont-work

The following is one of my more open and honest posts. This is a topic that I have struggled to write about but one that I felt desperately needed to be written. Interestingly enough, once I actually sat down and committed to writing this my thoughts freely flowed.  I think the lesson I learned from this experience is that when fear holds us back from doing something we give it more control than it deserves. I challenge you to evaluate your own life, step out in courage, and release yourself from the power of fear.  If we continue to let fear control us nothing will change.

Tamara

THE GRAHAM CRACKER

I love graham crackers. I think they are a great snack. My kids love them too. They are easily portable, fit nicely in a ziplock, and can be broken into smaller crackers for littler hands to hold. I mean really, what is not to love. Oh, and who can forget the graham crackers claim to fame, the s’more.

Imagine my surprise when I recently discovered that this little snack was invented for an entirely alternate purpose. Hold on to your pantry doors. If you are anything like me you will be in complete shock.

While the graham cracker has become known to my generation as a beloved childhood snack, it’s creation was inspired by a preacher, Sylvester Graham, who has part of the 19th century temperance movement. Graham believed that a vegetarian diet anchored by home-made whole grain bread, as part of a lifestyle that involved minimizing pleasure and stimulation of all kinds, was how God intended people to live and that following this natural law would keep people healthy.

Are you wondering how this relates to the graham cracker? Keep reading, I promise I am getting there.

Graham thought that if people could just eat a bland diet, in other words stay away from spicy foods, they would be less likely to engage in pornography and masturbation.

The idea at the time was that foods that contained more spices were causing people to be filled with lust. So, if you removed spicy foods from the diet, and replaced them with something that was more bland, the lust would be removed from your heart.

It sounds so easy, right? Eat your cracker a day to keep the lustful thoughts away.

These perforated crackers came into existence with the goal of controlling your sexual desires.

Obviously the graham cracker did not rid us of our carnal urges and general evils.

Because I can’t sit on this information, and feel the need to share it with you, did you know that cornflakes were also invented for the same purpose??? I know. I know. I just totally ruined snack time and breakfast for some of you. You won’t ever be able to look at graham crackers and cornflakes the same way again.

THE IDEA OF THE QUICK FIX

The idea of a quick fix is nothing new. As you can see with the graham cracker, we as a society, for centuries, have tried to control our lack of self control with a quick fix.

Quick fixes don’t work. But they are highly profitable and marketable.

People would rather pop a pill, drink a shake, or eat a graham cracker instead of dealing with the issue itself. It is easier and not as painful to deal with a problem on a surface level instead of digging deeper and eliminating the problem at the root.

Just to give you an example, my social media feeds are filled with people selling and promoting supplements and remedies for weight loss. Everyone wants to be healthier, but the majority of people would rather go about it the easy way by taking a pill that claims to lower blood pressure, covert fat into liquid that you will eliminate out of your body, and leave you with glowing skin and a six pack.

Recommended Reading: 3 Biblical Reasons to Take Care of Your Body

I think most of us know that a pill isn’t going to magically make us healthier. But we so desperately want to believe that it will. A pill is simple. It doesn’t make us change the habits that led us to an unhealthier life, and it requires little investment of time.

THE HIGH COST OF PORNOGRAPHY

I wish that there was a quick fix to the pornography epidemic that is ruining our families and relationships.

I think it is easier for us to talk about sex trafficking and how horrific it is then it is to discuss pornography. It shouldn’t be, because one fuels the other, but I think it is harder because for some of us pornography hits closer to home.

Let me be real for a second. I hate pornography, it is vile, addictive, and not at all how God intended for us to view sex.

It amazes me that shows on television that are so popular contain scenes that are so pornographic. We have become desensitized to the problem. By allowing it into our homes as primetime entertainment, we have given the ok that this type of entertainment is acceptable.

We can do so much better.

As a parent to a four year old boy I know that he will be exposed to pornography. It isn’t if he will be exposed, it is a question of when he will be exposed. By all current statistics the average age of the first exposure to pornography is 11, but I have also read as young as 9.

Thanks to the internet, pornography that was once hidden has become readily accessible and is being consumed by the masses. I don’t want my kids to learn about sex by watching pornography and sadly that is what is happening to our youth.

The unrealistic expectations pornography creates about sex for both men and women is a problem that isn’t going away anytime soon. It has embedded itself into our lives and sadly it has done so with our own blessing.

By not standing up and speaking out against it, we have allowed ourselves to become part of the problem. As parents we know we need to talk to our kids about sex, alcohol, and drugs but we also need to bravely and confidently speak truth into their lives about the dangers of pornography.

For Josh and I staying silent on this topic with our kids isn’t an option. We know we have to be intentional with our kids now in order for them to value what we say later.

There is no quick fix to this problem. There is no pill, cracker, or treatment center that can cure a person who is addicted to porn. People have to want to change, you can’t change for them.

The cost of pornography is high. Porn affects the brain like a drug. Numerous studies have shown that porn, like cocaine, tricks your brain into releasing pleasure chemicals. Overtime your brain begins to rewire itself and will need more and more of the stimulant to produce the same effect. This is why once a person starts watching porn they will need more and more to produce the same arousal level. Porn addiction often leads to less sex and sex that doesn’t satisfy. Eventually this can mean preferring porn to sex.

Our world is a dark place and pornography is not some fantasy world full of pleasure and fun. The making of pornography is filled with drugs, disease, slavery, trafficking, rape and abuse. The women that are being glamorized in porn are often victims and were once little girls just like my daughter. It kills me to think of anyone looking at her or using her as an object.

Below are some resources my family and I have found helpful. Hopefully these can encourage you to start an open dialogue with your spouse and older children or be helpful in creating a plan on how to approach this subject later with your little ones.

Fight the New Drug – This website has great resources, relevant news, personal stories, articles, and videos about the real harmful effects of pornography.

Covenant Eyes – Covenant Eyes is an internet accountability system that monitors the websites visited, the search terms used, and the YouTube videos watched, and lists them in an easy-to-read Report that is designed to start a conversation about healthy online habits. Family accounts are available to protect your family with accountability and filtering.

The Talks – Every parent fears having “the talk.” But what many fail to realize is that one conversation isn’t enough. The Talks will help you to focus on 15 conversations that every family must have about sex and dating and lay the right foundation on critical issues with your younger children.

Sex, Dating, and Relating DVD Set Teen Edition – Josh and I LOVE Mark Gungor’s Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage DVD and this is the teen edition. If we equip our kids with the right information we should see better results and spend less time trying to untangle the train wrecks that happen because people continue to make the wrong choices.

The cost of pornography is high and a graham cracker isn’t going to fix this problem.

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Cheers to 9 Years

Josh Tam Wedding

Josh was 34 years old on our wedding day and I was a few days shy of turning 24. Today I am a few days away from turning 33 and I as look back on the last 9 years of our marriage I can proudly say that our love story is my favorite, and the best part is it isn’t over yet!

I would be lying if I told you that everything has been smooth sailing since the day we said I do. Neither of us are perfect and thankfully we don’t pretend to be…wellllll sometimes I can be pretty close, just kidding, just kidding. But in all honesty it takes two people to make a marriage work and Josh and I always joke that we are stuck with each other for life because of our covenant marriage*.

With age comes more maturity and the ability to look back on life events from a different perspective. When Josh and I got married I thought I knew what love was. I knew love needed to be patient, kind, hold no record of wrong, not easily angered, not proud, not rude, not boastful, and not self seeking. I knew all these things but I didn’t know how to apply them to my marriage. It has taken years and with daily effort for me to actually attempt to be that definition of love in our marriage. And here is a spoiler alert: I still fail at this most days!

If I have learned anything it is to constantly keep praying, renewing my mind, and focusing on the positive so I can pour out unconditional love onto Josh and now also our children. Not seeing your husband for 24-48 hours at a time, multiple days out of the month, can create a real disconnect in your relationship if you are not careful.

I crushed on him hard at the age of 17 and told my friends I would marry him one day and have his babies. I promise I was not a stalker, but I am super happy that my teenage dream came true! In honor of 9 years of marriage I wanted to brag on Josh for a second and share how he has been a great example of biblical love.

I was super sick when we got married. Like paralyzed from the neck down, couldn’t feel anything sick. The older I get, the more amazed I am that he still wanted to marry me, not knowing what our life would be like several years down the road. Only knowing that I had been sick for 8 months prior to our wedding and that there was no real treatment plan to get me better. He could have easily walked away from me at this time and I know now looking back that he was 100% committed and all in. Most guys don’t go into their marriage prepared to take care of a sick wife who was at the doctors office weekly, in and out of hospitals, and needing help to do everyday tasks most people take for granted. Read more about my autoimmune disorder in The Girl Behind the Blog

He works so hard to provide for our family and does so without complaining…except when it is time to get out of bed in the morning. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard “I wish shift change happened at 8am” muttered under his breath as the alarm goes off for the third snooze cycle. When he comes home from work to two toddlers running around chasing after him, because they are excited to see him, and a wife who can sometimes talk his ear off if she is not careful, he still makes the time to be present with us even if he didn’t get an ounce of sleep, when all he really wants to do is fall into bed and close his eyes.

Marriage is a balancing act. It is learning to put the other persons needs above your own, no matter how hard it is. And sometimes it is really, really, hard.

The disappointments I have had in marriage have come from me thinking that God owed me something because I had done things the “right” way. I thought that God was going to bless me and reward me with a happily every after. I failed to understand that I wasn’t guaranteed a happily ever after in marriage. When two sinners marry there are going to be struggles and hard times.

Hard times will happen in marriage. Hard times will happen in life. For followers of Christ the happy ending is not immediate in this life, but it is guaranteed. We know how this will end for us, and where our hope is centered.

When I reminisce over the last 9 years of our marriage I am in awe of all the God has done. God has used our marriage to teach us and sanctify us so we can love and honor each other and also love God more and more.

Josh has seen me at my worst and has still been able to find a redeeming quality in me that has sometimes been hard for me to see myself and loved me through it. He is kind, believes the best in people, and forgives much easier than I do. For these reasons and many more myself and our children are lucky to have him.

I am thankful for anniversaries because they remind us to seek the best out of of our relationships and look back on how far we have come. I seriously can’t believe that we have two kids and another one soon on the way!

cheers-to-9-years

Tomorrow I am sure I will go back to being more easily annoyed by the small little things that Josh does that bug me, but today I am going to reminisce on the happy memories that have made us us.

Happy Anniversary Josh!

*Arizona, Arkansas, and Louisiana are the only three states that offer a covenant marriage. A covenant marriage is a legally distinct kind of marriage in which the marrying spouses agree to obtain pre-marital counseling and accept more limited grounds for later seeking divorce. To read more about covenant marriage visit The Policy Pages.

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10 Ways to Deal with Anxiety

10 Ways to Deal with Anxiety

I am not naive to the fact that anxiety will always be an issue for me. That being said, I am so thankful for where I am today and how far I have come in being able to deal with anxiety.

When I was sick 9 years ago with a neurological disorder I went from being a healthy carefree 23 year old to a complete wreck physically, mentally, and emotionally. Once I recovered physically, I never really dealt with any underlying issues that being sick left on me mentally. After I had my second baby at age 30 I had postpartum depression and my anxiety was at an all time high.

Anxiety is not a topic that typically comes up in conversation and I wanted to have an open conversation about anxiety in this post. I am going to be completely real and honest. If you have never experienced a panic attack or anxiety what I am going to share probably won’t make any sense, but if you are one of the 40 million adults in the United States between the ages of 18 to 54 who suffer from anxiety know you are not alone.

I am sharing 10 things that I did or I am currently doing to deal with anxiety in hopes that it can help someone who is reading this. If you have a family member or friend who you know is struggling feel free to share this post with them.

ADMIT I HAD A PROBLEM

This was probably the hardest thing for me. Admitting I had a problem that I couldn’t fix on my own was scary. I didn’t want to look like a failure for not being able to get my thoughts under control.

Let me give you an idea of just how out of control my thoughts had become. Again this will not sound rational. It doesn’t sound rational to me now. Hopefully this will paint a picture of just how far away from reality my thoughts had drifted.

After giving birth to our second child in 2014 the Ebola virus was starting to get out of control in Africa. Josh is a firefighter and I started to freak out that he was going to come into contact with an Ebola patient on shift and bring the virus home to our family and we were all going to die. I told you this wasn’t going to sound rational. I also had long debates with myself about not leaving the house with our kids while Josh was on shift because I was afraid a car would hit us, we would get robbed, or some other catastrophic disaster would befall us.

Thats the thing with anxiety. It is not rational. It takes a thought and runs off with it to the worst possible place you could go. One thought leads to another and to another until you or your family is dead and buried. At least that is how it looked in my situation.

Fast forward to today and I am currently 30 weeks pregnant with our third child. The news has been reporting on the Zika virus during my entire pregnancy and the damaging birth defects this virus can cause and I have not had any moments of anxiety over this. Had this happened two years ago I would have been a hot mess. I am a living testament that there is hope and light at the end of the tunnel if you are stuck in your anxiety.

MEDICATION

Once I admitted I had a problem I went to my doctor and got a prescription for Zoloft. In my situation, medication alone wouldn’t have solved the underlying issues that were triggering my anxiety, but it did allow me to think clearly enough to get to the root of the problem.

While medication would have altered my mood it wouldn’t have allowed me to really deal with the reasons behind my anxiety. I was on medication for a little over six months and under doctor supervision.

COUNSELING 

I worked with a christian counselor for 6 months. My major breakthroughs involved recognizing what triggers my negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and how to catch, challenge, and change them when they appear. If you are suffering with depression or anxiety I highly encourage you to seek out a certified professional.

STOP WATCHING TV

This might sound drastic to some of you but I cut myself off from the television. I loved me some reality tv and could easily get hooked into binge watching shows on Netflix. The other obsession I had was with Dateline. Me and Lester Holt go way back. I blame my Dad for my developed love of these types of shows ;). Anyway…with counseling I was starting to look at my life from a new perspective.

I realized that the television had become an idol for me. I loved the television.

I loved it more than spending time in God’s Word. I could say all I wanted about how much faith I had in God and how much I loved him but my actions sure weren’t reflecting those statements. The television wasn’t going to sustain me and fill me up the way I needed to be filled up.

This was not easy for me to do.

It was hard.

It was easy for me to sit on the sofa and watch mind numbing shows for hours at a time while the kids were napping or sleeping. When the house was quiet I didn’t like the thoughts swirling around in my head.

Just to clarify, I don’t think all television is bad, but honestly the majority of shows are not encouraging, uplifting, or positive which is I why I am now super selective on what I watch and what the kids watch.

STAY AWAY FROM TRIGGER WEBSITES

I also was in the habit, and still have to watch myself, of always carrying my phone with me. It is so easy to start staring at my phone and begin scrolling through social media sites.

In case you haven’t noticed not everything online is super positive. It can be easy to be drawn into more negative patterns of thinking when you are constantly bombarding yourself with easy access to websites, blog posts, and news articles that will trigger negative thoughts.

I delated any app and cleared my website history that would trigger negative thinking. With these removed I prioritized apps and websites that encouraged me or inspired me to dig into God’s Word.

STOP LISTENING TO SATAN’S LIES

This one brings me to tears because I had no idea how many lies I was actually believing. I had forgotten about all the promises I have in Christ because they had become drowned out by the enemy’s lies.

In case you need a reminder here are a few of the many benefits and blessings gifted to us as redeemed children of God:

  • The Holy Spirit lives in me. (1 Cor. 3:16)
  • I am helped by God. (Hew. 4:16)
  • I am tenderly loved by God. (Jer. 31:3)
  • I am a temple in which God dwells. (1 Cor. 3:16)
  • I am chosen by Christ to bear fruit. (John 15:6)
  • I am firmly rooted and built up in Christ. (Col. 2:7)
  • I am born of God, and the evil one can’t touch me. (1 John 5:18)
  • I have been removed from Satan’s domain and transferred into the Kingdom of Christ. (Col. 1:13)
  • I have been given a spirit of power, love, and self discipline. (2 Tim. 1:7)
  • My needs are met by God. (Phil. 4:19)
  • I can do all things through Christ, who gives me the strength I need. (Phil. 4:13)

And the list could go on and on. If you are struggling I would suggest picking a few of these and writing them on notecards and placing them around your house.

READ MY BIBLE

With all the free time on my hands not watching television shows and scrolling the internet on my phone I began to read my Bible more and found several podcasts from churches and pastors that I filled my free time with.

Let me say this about reading my Bible. It is a discipline. It takes time and dedication to read. I would recommend to not jump around verse to verse or just randomly open your bible and point your finger and begin reading.

The Bible was meant to read together. We all know that the Bible contains promises for us and there are so many verses about comfort that can be used when we are struggling to encourage us. The problem that comes by doing this is when we take these verses and make them simple quotes, that look great on an instagram feed with a pretty picture behind it, we fail to see the bigger picture in scripture. We miss the context of the verse.

My recommendation. Read the bible as the bible. Not a verse. I have completed the new testament and have 10 books left in the old testament. While some books have been more challenging for me to read than others, the time I have spent reading has been so worth it. I have grown to love the old testament, never thought I would type that, and have been blown away in how it all connects together.

CONNECT WITH FELLOW BELIEVERS

My anxiety caused me to create a bubble around myself and my family. I stayed home and didn’t really venture away from the house unless it was absolutely necessary. At my counselors suggestion I started to make plans to help get myself out of the house. I joined a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group at my church and the following year joined a women’s bible study.

I love my MOPS group and my bible study ladies! They have been a HUGE blessing to me and I am so thankful that I stepped out of my comfort zone to connect with other believers.

Human connection is so important. God has not left us here alone to struggle through things by ourselves.

PRAY

I am also praying more, memorizing more scripture, and praying more scripture over my life, my family, my friends. I am also not ashamed to ask for prayer when I need it.

In the past I had questioned if it was even worth asking for prayer in certain circumstances but I have learned that asking for prayer isn’t about putting burdens on our friends. It’s about letting them walk by our side down a path we were never intended to walk alone.

EXERCISE AND EAT MORE NON PROCESSED FOODS

Over the last year and half our family has made changes to what we eat, how we are eating, and also have rejoined a gym that has childcare and allows Josh and I to workout together.

We are a family of soon to be 5 that lives off a single income. Several years ago we put our beloved Lifetime Fitness membership on hold because it just was not working for our budget anymore. We waited until we found something that we liked, and our kids liked, and that worked for our budget. It took awhile, but we finally have found a new gym that is perfect for our growing family and budget.

The few hours Josh and I do get to spend to together in the gym are refreshing and life giving. They are recharge hours that are vitally important for us, and let’s be honest, getting to take an uninterrupted shower after a workout is pretty awesome. There are so many great reasons to exercise on a regular basis. If you are needing more motivation to start exercising and eating better you can read my post 3 Biblical Reasons to Take Care of Your Body.

As I am getting closer to approaching my due date in November with baby #3 I know it will be important to stay focused on what really matters. It would be easy for me to slip back into old habits while caring for a newborn, so I am writing this post as a reminder to myself to see how far I have come over the last two years.

I love the verse “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”  2 Corinthians 5:17.

I am a new creation and I am so thankful that my identity is rooted in Christ and that the Holy Spirit lives in me. When I stopped trying to fix myself on my own I allowed His power to work in me. As believers I think we can get into the mindset of thinking that we need to muscle through challenges while in reality we need to surrender ourselves, pull out our white flag, and allow God to take over the reigns.

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