Wednesday, May 29, 2013


One of my greatest struggles is balancing my public and personal personas. On one hand, I am an expert in the field of intimacy, and on the other, I am just a girl. One moment I am dispensing advice on the radio, TV or to a live audience, and the next I am making lunches, helping with homework and chatting with a friend. I have worked very hard to develop both my career and my relationships, but some days, especially when I feel like I am screwing up more than usual, the dichotomy between the two worlds becomes very painful. Who am I to speak about being kind to one another when I want to stuff those horrible words I uttered back in my mouth? Who am I to talk about balance when I can’t hear what my daughter is telling me because I am too absorbed with work? Who am I to talk about the wonders of marriage when Eric and I just had a knock-down drag out…on the way to the marriage conference?
In those moments of feeling like a complete fraud and failure, I realize that I am not alone. I remember the pastor’s wife who felt like she would get kicked out of the church if anyone found out that she loved Harlequin romances, the Marriage Ministry pastor who hated sex and lived like roommates with her husband, the youth leader who felt forever tainted because of a little action in the back seat of a car when she was a teenager, the elder who struggled daily with a porn addiction, and the pastor’s wife who was in love with another woman. There are other people who struggle with their public and personal realities as well. We all just do it in secret.
Sometime over the past 2000+ years, we have drifted into a country club type of Christianity. We have to show up perfectly polished and radiant. We have to look good. We have to be successful. We have to be winning the battle. Sin? Sure, that’s something that I deal with…but not often…and I gain victory over it quickly. Church is very rarely a place where you can be anything other than the public persona. Did you just find out that your husband has been cheating on you? Did you just get let go from work? Did you scream at your kids on the drive? Then put happy smiles on your faces as you walk through the door because you are going to worship Jesus.
And yet, the Jesus I read about hung out with the tainted, the screw-ups, the outsiders, and the unwanted. He had endless compassion for the people who came to him with the realization that they didn’t have it all together. In fact, the only people who pissed him off were the religious folks who, well, refused to acknowledge anything but their public personas. So why do we work so diligently to hide our sin when the church should be a place of refuge for all of us who realize how deeply broken we really are? Why do we feel the need – in our ministries and public lives – to have everything figured out, all the time?
I don’t have it together all the time. In fact, probably not even most of the time. But I also have a deeply held belief that I cannot lead other people places I myself fear to tread. If I refuse to acknowledge or examine the difficult, the scary, the thorny, the inconvenient, the ugly, and the broken parts of myself, and I am the “expert,” then what hope can I offer to the “broken” people who show up in my office?
The simple and tidy answer that the “Christian expert” would offer is, of course, I offer the hope of Jesus. And while there is truth to that – I grew up an evangelical, singing the lines, Jesus is the answer for the world today – I know that life is rarely simple and tidy. I think it’s disingenuous of us to offer up the trite “Jesus is the answer” when Jesus rarely answered questions directly when he was walking on the earth. He liked to remain silent, to tell stories or to respond with a question.
Somewhere along the line, we became afraid of questions and started worshiping the answers. Jesus camped out in the questions. I believe we will still find him there today. Because when we walk naked into the questions, we have stripped away our façade, our arrogance and our pretense, and have become those whom Jesus said he was sent to. “It is not the healthy who need a physician but the sick. But go and learn what this means, ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
So after all the training, all the studying, and all the years of “becoming an expert,” what I can offer is exactly what I need myself: compassion, empathy and understanding. It is from this place that Jesus still works miracles.
ERYN-FAYE FRANS, Canada's Passion Coach ®

Friday, May 24, 2013


Charlotte Brontë once said, “The trouble is not that I am single and likely to stay single, but that I am lonely and likely to stay lonely.” And that is how we too often mis-label loneliness. Loneliness exists in our collective unconscious as this unquenchable fire that burns through our happiness and rages behind unassailable walls that surround our hearts. It evokes images of pitiful solitude in black and white, and most affects those whose days are spent alone.
But what I am seeing more and more in my practice, is a crippling loneliness that affects men and women within the bonds of marriage. An insidious loneliness that walks hand-in-hand with shame and holds you hostage – bound and gagged so that you cannot speak though you are surrounded by ears longing to hear. We have confused loneliness with being alone, and the two are not always connected. For many, it is less like Brontë imagined and more like Haruki Murakami quipped, “Sometimes I get real lonely sleeping with you.”
Last week, I received a letter from a lady who had met me at one of my seminars. The form she had filled out on my website dropped into my inbox innocuously enough. But as I opened the email, I was completely unprepared for the depth of her vulnerability. Without any background information or details, she said, “I’m so lonely for him that I can’t open up anymore. I bury a ton of pain and cannot share. Is there any hope?”
Her words moved me deeply, not only because she was in so much pain, but also because I have been seeing a growing trend of lonely people in my coaching. Obviously, people come chat with me when there is something they want to discuss about their sex lives. But more and more people are identifying the core reason for bad or non-existent sex as deep loneliness. They feel cut off from their spouses, and this isolation translates into distance in their sex lives.
When I asked one woman, whose husband frequently leaves town to hang out with his buddies, if she could ask him to stay at home more often, she burst into tears. “I am afraid. I think I want to be with him more than he wants to be with me. What if I tell him that I miss him, and he confirms my suspicions that he just doesn’t care?” A man who had come to me for sexual dysfunction looked at me at the end of one of our sessions and said, “How come I can tell you how I feel about my wife, but I can’t tell her?”
Too many people long to connect with their spouses, but cannot find the words to express this desire. Their loneliness runs so deep that it shuts their mouths and cripples their relationships. The fear of rejection they feel extinguishes any whisper of courage to speak up. To the world around them, they may look like perfect couples, but behind the scenes they are slowly dying inside.
In a recent post on Red Letter Christians, Micah Bales made a significant comment about loneliness, “In a society where so often we are judged by our résumés, productivity, and reputation, unconditional love is unspeakably precious.” There is no doubt that we live in a culture wherein success – even the illusion of success – is the ultimate goal. We fear that if people took a peak behind the masks we wear and saw the truth of who we are, (which is probably not as successful as what we portray on Facebook, around the office or when chatting with the moms at school pick-up) they would not want us anymore. If they saw who we reallyare, we would no longer be worthy of their time, attention, smiles and laughter.
But no matter what we project to the world around us, our homes should be the place where this precious unconditional love thrives. This is the place where we should truly be able to be ourselves…all of us. They should be the safe places to let our guard down, to take off our masks and just be real.
But this comes at a cost. This requires us to have the courage to speak with our whole hearts. We must be willing to let our partners hold our hearts and trust them to bear the weight. This is scary, particularly when they have not been gentle with our hearts in the past, or when we are afraid that the weight will be too heavy for them to bear.
The book of John assures us that “Perfect love casts out all fear.” But sometimes our deepest fear is that our love isn’t perfect. And when that fear takes root and we become afraid to speak about how intensely we love, want and need each other, what we are left with isn’t really love at all. It’s just a pale shadow of what could be.
Loneliness abates when it is met with connection and community. It eases when we hear, “You are not alone. I want you. I need you. I love you. We can walk this road together. We won’t always walk it perfectly – sometimes we will be stumbling more than walking – but I will be with you.”
So maybe, just maybe, choosing to admit that we’re lonely  taking that first trembling step of courage  is the best place to start.

ERYN-FAYE FRANS, Canada's Passion Coach ®

Monday, May 20, 2013

This Is The WORST Best Lesson In Life

It’s a game we play, and replay, a lot at our house.

“But it isn’t FAAAIIIIR!” they whine.

I act Alarmed. Affronted. Confused. “Who told you life was fair? How dare they!”

It’s not entirely an act. I happen to think that teaching our kids they are entitled to a life of ease and comfort is irresponsible, possibly cruel. Someday the real world will come calling. If they haven’t had an opportunity to build important coping skills, they will likely to fall to pieces. The small, everyday disappointments of life are an important curriculum.

stuff happens

You won’t be able to watch that movie tonight, because Dad is watching his team lose the Stanley Cup.

There’s a hole in your favourite hoodie (the only thing worse than this is my suggestion of sewing on a patch, apparently).

Your sister has a sleepover tonight and you don’t. You’ll have to hang out with your mom instead.

I’m sorry, but your sister ate your homework (true story).

All valuable lessons, if handled correctly. Somewhere between “Vlad the Insensitive, Destroyer of Dreams” and “Schmoopy the Rescuer, Enabler of Dysfunction” lies good parenting.

My parents certainly didn’t subscribe to the “protect-at-all-costs” parenting philosophy. In their mind, suffering builds character, even for kids. They didn’t push us down the stairs or pinch us when we smiled too wide. But they didn’t apologize for the reasonable disappointments life brought our way – doing more chores than any of my friends, wearing second-hand clothes, bypassing the candy aisle, bringing lunch instead of buying… a whole lot of making do with what we had, without complaining.

This wasn’t easy to swallow as a child. And if I’m being honest, it’s still a struggle. Although I wasn’t raised to believe my life SHOULD be easy, I still feel somewhat surprised and ripped off when it isn’t. “But God, it’s not FAAAAIIIIR!”

Because it’s really not. Life isn’t fair.

Lessons I’ve learned from Disappointment:

Perspective: As I write this, on my personal laptop, in a warm house, dressed in a new (second-hand, but still newly bought) shirt, after eating a filling lunch, while my healthy son naps and my well supported children attend a well equipped school nearby, I realize that whining about life being unfair is pretty, well, unfair, to the billions of people who could only dream about a life as good as mine. Nevertheless, my small disappointments gave me a taste of suffering and dose of reality. Life is like this. Bad stuff happens (the slightly less poetic, but much more child-friendly truism). There’s not always someone to blame. No one is entitled to a trouble-free existence.

Health: How many of the worst patterns/habits/addictions we hold are attempts to escape or numb the pain life brings our way? I can personally attest to the tranquilizing effects of too much food, which I begin to crave whenever things start going wrong. One of my children asked if it’s true that ice cream is medicine? Ummm… A healthy person is learning to accept this discomfort and process it in a healthy way. Cry. Pray. Laugh. Create. Throw socks at the wall (really, it works).

Selflessness: Selflessness is learned in the hard places. After we process the disappointment, we have a choice. Where will my focus be? Will I wallow in my misery? Or will I think beyond me and what I want? Without a doubt, the instruction most often handed out, but not always followed by myself is: “It’s okay to be upset, but it’s not okay to make everyone around you miserable just because you are.”

Gratitude: What comes easy is often taken for granted. When I’m familiar with disappointment, then getting what I want/need/hope for is a gift and I will truly appreciate it. Our daughter B was born the year after we buried her brother Simon. Although her diagnosis with Down Syndrome threw us somewhat for a loop, it paled in comparison to the glorious fact that she was ALIVE and healthy.

Compassion: Disappointment is very real to the person feeling it. Whether anyone else understands or not, there it is. Someone who has faced their own disappointments may not be any better equipped to understand a unique sorrow, but we are open to the experience. Where it would be more convenient and comfortable to stuff our own pain beyond conscious reach and whitewash over the pain of others, the student of disappointment is not afraid to go there.

How to Grieve: My small disappointments have prepared me for the devastations in life. Not entirely. Nothing can. But it’s a start: the basic skill to face the hurt, work through it, find the joy in the midst of it and reach out to others regardless.

Disappointment isn’t lethal.

Disappointment is a natural part of life.

Disappointment is a good teacher.

I believe it and I want to live it… but doling it out as a parent is a lot harder than I expected. Perhaps it is my generation. Perhaps I’m just a pathetic softie. It’s hard to say no. It’s hard to watch those sad little faces. It’s hard not to jump in and make everything fair and smooth out the rough edges and bribe them back to happy.

So, I’m thankful for the times we really can’t afford it. Or there isn’t enough time. Or enough energy. Or it just really grosses me out (see: pet snake argument).

There is nothing wrong with WANTING to give your children everything. There IS something wrong with actually giving it to them. Unless you’re hoping to raise spoiled, greedy, miserable brats. If so, then by all means, appease and rescue and avoid disappointment at all costs. You’re on the right track.

So here’s me, hoping we’re all disappointed just enough to build strong character and no more.


Saturday, May 11, 2013


Mother’s Day is always bitter-sweet for me. Before I lost Mom to cancer, it was just sweet. We moved all the time and so she was truly my closest friend. She knew all my dreams and hopes, she gave me space to be myself even when it was awkward and stilted, and she derived great delight in watching me become the person that God had intended. She had a saying, “Find your children fascinating, and they will always be so.”
She was dying when I left for law school overseas. People had tried to talk me out of going – they knew it would be the last time I saw her even if I was in complete denial about it – but she was furious at any hint that I might be dissuaded from my dreams. Shortly before I was due to go, she called me into her room and told me in no uncertain terms that I was to get my butt on that plane to Scotland. My last memory of her is her standing, looking very small and frail, at the door waving as we drove off to the airport. I am told that once we were out of sight, she collapsed and had to be helped back to bed. “They don’t make movies this sad,” she told her best friend.
There were many motivating factors for Mom to make sure that I made it on that plane. She believed that I had worked hard for many years with law school as my goal, and she didn’t want to be the one to get in the way of those dreams. She also knew that I was slowly withering away in Texas, and I had to get out. My years in Texas gave me some tremendous gifts for which I am thankful, but I always felt like a fish out of water there. Going to Scotland gave me the chance to breathe again, and Mom recognized this as the necessary next step in my development.
But she was also concerned about the relationship I was in at the time. I was dating a guy (let’s call him Alex) who, in her mind, wasn’t the right fit for me. Going to school meant that I was moving 3,000 miles away before the relationship got too serious. At the time, I couldn’t understand this – Alex was amazing! And he truly was a great guy. But she asked me once, “Can you talk to him…I mean, really talk to him?”
In retrospect, I believe her inquiry was borne of painful insight that she had into her own marriage. My dad was a wonderful man in a lot of ways, but she often felt lonely with him. He was a pastor, so he worked a lot. My parents were great spouses and parents, but I don’t know if they were great friends. I don’t think she felt that she could really talk to him.
This shaped the way she taught me about dating relationships. Sex was a very open topic in our household, and I was fortunate enough to escape the whole “you are damaged goods if you sleep around” dogma. Sex was clearly taught as something to be saved for marriage, but my mother spent far more time talking to me about what type of man I wanted to spend my life with rather than simply what I would do once I found that man.
Texas was a great place for learning about different types of men. When I was a teenager, we didn’t do the whole courting thing. Every girl started to “car date” (the guy would pick you up in his car after meeting your dad…who was usually cleaning his shotgun) around the age of 15, and it was expected that you would date numerous people before you got married. While it scared the living daylights out of me at the time, I wouldn’t trade those experiences for the world. I got to meet a wide variety of guys with different personalities and temperaments to see who fit me best. To this day, I don’t ascribe to the belief that there is one person out there for you, but I do believe that there are certain personality types that will suit you better and make marriage less tumultuous. Dating was my opportunity to find out what type of guy I was looking for as a life partner.
Over the years, my mother offered her input and guidance. Of one boyfriend, she said, “He doesn’t light up when you walk into the room. You deserve that.” Of another, she said “He didn’t open the car door for you. Chivalry is important.“ She did love one guy but unfortunately I didn’t, so that was the end of that relationship. And so when she asked me whether I could really talk to Alex, I took her seriously. Yes, he had great character. Yes, he was good looking. Yes, we had similar goals in life. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that there were things I just couldn’t share with him. I kept far too much of who I really was hidden from his view.
We did date long-distance, and it took time for me to break up with him. But when I met Eric, the first thing that jumped out at me was that we could talk. We actually started out by arguing, but we talked for hours and hours and we haven’t stopped. (Well, except for the few times during our dating years when I kicked him to the curb.) When the passion ebbs in our relationship, when we are stressed by the circumstances of life, and when we don’t agree on various points of view, we still have enormous respect for each other…respect is grounded in our deep friendship. Turns out, Mom was right.
Now, I am a mom. After enduring the bitter years of being both motherless and childless, I now have the sweetness of raising my own daughter, Riley. She has already had her first crush. We have had the first of many sex talks (in age appropriate terms, of course). Her body is beginning to change, and I already recognize the signs of hormonal fluctuations. Before I know it, she will begin on the path of looking for her life partner. Without a doubt, I will have challenging decisions to make about balancing the concepts of purity and sexual responsibility. I hope that I will do so with wisdom and grace.
But as I guide my daughter, I will do so with Mom’s model in mind. I will watch her with fascination to see who she is growing to be. As I learn to understand her better, I will have conversations with her about what type of guy will fit with her personality. I will support her as she goes through the difficult and yet giddy period of dating. I will speak honestly into her life about her choices and hope that she will listen…if not in the moment, at least when it comes to making the final decision. Most importantly, I will do my best to help her understand the importance of friendship and communication as a basis for marriage so she can choose wisely.
And I will do all of this with that an ever-present hollow place in my own heart…the one that represents how much I miss Mom; how I wish she had been here to meet the man I finally did choose, to see her granddaughter be born, and her daughter become a mom. It’s a scar that reminds me of how much I needed Mom and how hard it is to do this without her. But it also serves as a daily prompt for me to think back on all the things she did teach me, and how important it is that I never forget. Because of it, I pray every day that I am half the mother to Riley that Mom was to me.
Mother’s Day will always be bitter-sweet for me. I can’t make it through without thinking of what I’ve lost, but neither can I get through it without being in awe of all I have.

ERYN-FAYE FRANS, Canada's Passion Coach ®

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


May 2013 061The week before Mother’s Day and the holiday is officially on. A large display of sappy, overpriced cards in the mall. A coupon in the mail for extravagant flower arrangements. And a messy painting project underway on our back deck, as we corral the littles into creating one-of-a-kind cards for the many moms in our life.

One more made up holiday to fill our life with saccharine rituals and construction paper crafts. It’s a lot of effort (and often expense) in our already busy lives. But it’s all worth it, because Mom doesn’t get to be the star of the show most days.

Most days it’s about everyone, and everything, else. Most days no one says thank you, because no one even notices all the little things that keep life moving. Most days it’s a grind, nothing glamorous or exciting or worth posting in a Facebook status (not that we don’t post it anyway). And most days, we do these selfless, thankless, menial tasks quite happily, because mother-love is the most practical love of all.

So you bet we treasure our gluey crafts and roses-are-red-and-so-is-your-hair poems. We eat Cajun-style toast and undercooked eggs off our laps in bed. And we grab our pink carnation on the way out of church like it’s a badge of honor.

We take our turn in the seat of honor for a change, and it feels good.

But not all mothers are celebrating with us. For a hundred different reasons, there are those who feel the pinch of this holiday. The celebration is like salt in a wound, and every sugary sweet second of it burns.

I remember that.

My first Mother’s Day after giving birth, I went home to an empty house. I was a Mom without a child. And I wondered if it still counted. If, on this day, I counted.

I hadn’t changed any diapers. I hadn’t soothed fussy cries. I hadn’t agonized over cloth or disposable diapers. I hadn’t taken 1,000 pictures of the exact same pose, because it looked like he just “might” be smiling.

I had changed my plans. I had cried myself to sleep. I had agonized over cremation or burial. I had taken pictures of the tree we buried our son under, because I wanted to watch it grow over the years.

That year there were two families in our church who had new babies. That Mother’s Day, our church family called both myself and my friend Cheryl up to the front and gave us each a keepsake in honour of our children. They made sure we knew it counted. That we counted.

This Mother’s Day I wonder how many other women are asking that same kind of question. Is Mother’s Day for me too?

For the women with empty arms. For the women who are waiting, longing, and hoping to be called “Mom.” For the women who did not give birth or sign adoption papers, but pour themselves into the children around them. For the women haunted by a twisted version of motherhood. For the women filled with regrets. For the women who are grieving and hurting and just trying to survive.

I think it is. Maybe especially so. It’s impossible to understand the gift of Motherhood without acknowledging the pain and the struggle. As a child is born, so is a mother. In pain. In giving. In supreme effort.

Not all mothers are born in the labour and delivery ward. Some are born during a long wait, intrusive home studies, and stacks of paperwork. Some do not hold their children in their arms, but in their hearts, with a love that is not diminished by the loss. Some give birth, then give again so their child can have a better life with a grateful family. Some suffer the long wait, wondering when their turn will come, going to extraordinary lengths for their children-to-be. Some instead wear the title “Auntie” or “teacher” or “nanny” or “friend” but give unconditional love, and time, and energy, beyond normal boundaries.

All mothering is done in the same way. In pain. In giving. In supreme effort.

All women who are in the labour pains of being or becoming mothers represent us well. 

Mother’s Day may not be a Happy one for you, but it still counts. You still count.
So here’s some cheesy affirmation and bad poetry, just for you:

May 2013 064

So here’s me, so grateful for all my children this Mother’s Day: the ones here with me and the ones in heaven. Also for the other mothers in our life, the foster-mother and birth-mother and birth-grandmothers, who’ve given us so much, at such a high price.