Journey to Healing and Joy

If you’re like many parents, at least at some point in your parenting, you may have found yourself crossing your fingers thinking, “How long can I put off having THE SEX TALK?” For some, the mere thought sends immediate sweat beads to glisten your foreheads. You may think, “But I want to keep them innocent! And young!” If this is you, welcome to the crowd. You’re in good company. However, that doesn’t negate us from the reality check we all need to come to grips with. If you need to, sit down, find a paper bag to breath into, I’ll give you a minute…because reality is, the world is racing to beat you to it. That’s right, the world would LOVE to teach, train, & equip your kids in ALL things sex. Rather than, “How long can I put off having THE TALK?”, perhaps the question we should be asking ourselves is, “How much do I trust society to teach, train, & equip my child’s sexuality?” In a world that not only capitalizes on, but also glamourizes sex scandals, pornography, & a plethora of other sexually promiscuous behaviors, can I tell you right now that, let unchecked, our children are NOT in good hands?

You may have read last week’s intro newsletter to our Kids Online Safety series, where I mentioned a couple of the sneaky ways the world has been aiming to steal our kids’ innocence right from under our noses (If not, you can view that newsletter here. We also invited you to join us in our ongoing online discussion via Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram where we’ve been posting discussion questions from our readers. Feel free to get in on the conversation. Send us your questions, hear from others, & add your “2 cents” to the conversation.

Today we’re focusing on the topic of EDUCATE.

There’s no better place to start than to


Do you know what your kids are doing online? Do you know what their favorite apps & games are? Which take up most of their time? Do you know how to work these apps? What are the minimum age requirements for these games & apps? Which ones come with community chat features? Which link to social media? Which apps provide loophole links to unfiltered internet? How much time are they spending on the internet? All of these and more are good questions to ask ourselves.

With Summer upon us, the number of online hours kids spend online goes up, & so does the risk of encountering an online predator or inappropriate online content. In fact, reports that “17% of 8-11s and 29% of 12-15s who go online say they have ever seen something online that they have found worrying or nasty; 45% of 12-15s who go online say they have seen hateful content online in the last year, an increase since 2016;…12% of 12-15s say they have been bullied on social media, equal to the number who say they have been bullied face to face.”1 goes on to report “a quarter of 12-15s say they have ever been contacted online by someone they don’t know, and one in ten say they have ever seen something of a sexual nature that made them feel uncomfortable, either online or on their mobile phone.”1 Add onto that that “over 80% of children get exposed to porn unintentionally,”2 according to

Media lives by age. a snapshot

If we’re going to take on the responsibility of protecting & training our kids in the online world just as we do in the offline world, we must be willing to become at least somewhat tech savvy. While some parents are already on this, others may find this task more daunting. If you fall into the latter category, a way to get started is by inviting your kids to educate you on what they know. Spend time poking around on your kids’ devices. Step into their world. Try playing their game with them. While doing so, you may want to take special notice of social media links & chat arenas & what is going on there. You might be surprised at what you find.

Also, be aware that our children are targets. Just as we warn our kids of coming in contact with a “bad guy”, “sneaky people”, “stranger danger”, or what have you, we also need to be mindful of the same kind of characters preying on our children through the internet & mobile devices, even as we see them tucked away “safely” in their beds or lounging on the couch next to us. The dangers are still very real & can have long term, damaging effects on their lives, health, & the health of their families. In all actuality, pornography addiction is no respecter of age or persons. The younger the consumer the more money is made. In fact, it is estimated that globally, the porn industry brings in $97 billion annually. About $12 billion of that is from the U.S. alone3. Hook them young & they’ll be lifelong customers, right? Who do you want to get to them first? Which brings us to…


It is not good enough to simply know for ourselves; we educate ourselves so we can best educate & lead our children. The world-wide web is a double-edged sword, a tool for good and evil. Our children should be familiar with the good, but should also beware of the danger there, as well. There are several ways to do this:

One way we can address this topic of internet safety is to capitalize on what we see & hear. Integrate online & personal safety in everyday conversations as appropriate: News, school, outside conversations, social media (#metoo, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby...), etc. can all become talking points of conversation between ourselves & our child as it relates to safety. We may also decide to carve out special times to focus & discuss it. If you’re not sure where to start, consider using a book or online video you have screened beforehand and believe would be helpful.

Keep in mind that kids don’t like lectures. We can be sensitive to this as we gauge what they can & can’t handle. Try breaking things up with questions (i.e., Why do people prey on others? What is the difference between a real-life friend and an online friend?) Another thing we can do is to capitalize on our kid’s questions. Anticipate personal questions they may ask about us & be prepared with an honest, but age-appropriate answer. We can warn our kids to beware of online predators pretending to be someone they’re not. If they use social media or chats, make sure they know what information is personal information not to be shared online & what kind of information they should use a high level of caution when sharing online.

What is appropriate safety discussions for what ages? Each child, family, & set of circumstances is unique, so this will depend a lot on parental discretion. We know our child better than most, if not all. Consider their maturity level, level of exposure, & their natural curiosity. Kids often pick up on things we assume go over their heads. For all ages, find out what they already know. Here’s some helpful reminders when educating our child(ren). Keep in mind this timeline is not concrete, but rather, a loose guideline that may vary based on your circumstances & child’s maturity:

Ages 2-6:
*Find out what they know.
*This age is very literal.
*Keep it simple. Tell them what is good & bad.
*Use proper names for body parts.
*The bathing suit area is private.

Ages 7-12:
*Find out what they know.
*Address their curiosity.
*Teach them what to think about sex.
*Look for positives.

*Find out what they know.
*Encourage open dialogue.
*They don’t like lectures.
*Teach them how to think about sex.
*Admit when you just don’t know4.

If you have young children, rather than waiting to play damage control on sexual issues & internet safety, why not take the plunge & beat the world to it?
In later weeks, we’ll hit on these next topics:

2) Protect
3) Be a Safe Place
4) Prepare for Independence
5) Recognize the World They Are Inheriting

Search for A Circle of Joy & join in on our online discussion surrounding Kids Online Safety on social media via Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram.

As we’ve studied the available resources & tools that can equip parents to understand the problem & address it in the most up-to-date way possible, we’ve encountered an array of groups offering such resources. Some are developed by religious denominations, & others by individuals and other organizations, but all are meant to help you parent in this fast-paced, & sometimes dangerous technological age in which we live. Here’s a small listing of a few of those groups as well as additional resources suggested by our readers…

In this together,
~ Brittany,



3Source: NBC News

4Source: Common Sense Media

Kids Safety (Week 1)

A single mom, doing all she can to provide for, educate, & protect her little ones, has a six-year-old son with his own cell phone. Not her decision. Not her preference. But so goes life at this stage for many split family households. At least the parents agree to put strict parental controls on the phone. No browsing the internet. No downloading unauthorized apps. Time restrictions. No giving out phone numbers to anyone mom or dad doesn’t approve. At this point, one may feel they deserve a good pat on the back. Perhaps a, “Great job protecting your kid!” Or possibly even a, “Way to go being a responsible parent! You earn five gold stars!” Heh. Wouldn’t that be nice? The sad truth is anyone who’s mildly tech savvy will tell you that none of those are a guarantee of safety. 

Any feelings of safety came crashing down the night this mom stumbled upon this text message on her sweet, innocent six-year-old’s phone:

Iam Nikky (23) live in your street. Looking for a sex partner in the neighborhood. Therefor I’ve a picture on here::>[xxxxxxxxxxxxxx](no need cost) you also got my contact number there if you wanna give me a call. I guess if you’re attracted to me. I will be talking to you soon.............” 

This. I wish I could say this story was the rare exception, or even as bad as it gets. Unfortunately, as we become a more technologically advanced society this kind of thing is becoming more the norm rather than the exception. And this instance is on the mild side. There are countless stories  like these & worse that flood chat rooms, facebook pages, churches, & organizations like A Circle of Joy each & every day. Parents, grandparents, young adults, & even youth crying out for help, for some kind of solution as they grieve the loss of innocence taking place in their lives or in the lives of the ones they love.

No doubt, technology is moving things at an alarming rate. What used to take some effort to obtain is now literally at even your preschooler’s tap away from being exposed to x-rated content that would make our great grandparents turn over in their grave. Content that could stay with these precious children for a lifetime, even grow into an addiction or lead to illegal behaviors. 

So HOW DO WE PROTECT OUR CHILDREN from this madness? What recourse do we, as the responsible guardians, have in this battle we might feel we are already losing?

Take heart, dear friends. You’re not alone. We’re in this together.

For the next 5 weeks we will be opening up our social media floor, so to speak, for an open discussion as we post questions related to each of these topics:

1) Educate
2) Protect
3) Be a Safe Place
4) Prepare for Independence
5) Recognize the World They Are Inheriting

If you were paying attention to the news, recently, you may have stumbled across the SnapChat fiasco (a picture app used by kids everywhere), where a “Cosmo After Dark Discovery Channel” was recently added to the app on May 18th. “Cosmo After Dark” described itself as “an X-rated weekly edition that goes live every Friday at 6 p.m. and is exclusively dedicated to all things hot and h*rny.

This addition gave unguarded access to pornographic material to any curious soul, & there was no way for parents to turn off the feature. was among the first to bring this to public attention. Then a rare, and dare I say even historic, event happened. As this news story became viral with thousands of social media shares, an UPROAR began to surface from adults everywhere! And just like that, it was confirmed on May 24th, mere days after this addition to SnapChat launched, Snap, Inc issued a statement notifying the public that they have discontinued that feature on their app!

If there was ever a time to get in the know & get involved to protect our children from internet dangers, the time is NOW! We need not sit back & accept the cards of society as they fall onto unsuspecting future generations. There IS something we can do!

Please join us on Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram to get in on the conversation!

Looking forward to hearing from you,


Do You Know of A Church Providing Help for Sexual Addiction? If So, We Want to Hear About It!

In the age of Me Too, political sexual scandals, and society questioning what's appropriate and what isn't, what is the Church at large doing to help people deal with their own struggles, questions, and heartbreak around sexuality? A social door has opened; will the Church walk through it into the reality all around us and in it's pews? Or will most churches once again fail to be "real?"

Heart of Man banner

Churches everywhere are recognizing the problems that porn & sexual addiction issues are bringing into homes & communities in epidemic proportions. Thankfully, not everyone is taking this epidemic sitting down.

Mosaic Church of Ocean Springs, Mississippi is just one of many taking active measures to combat these issues & more. At Mosaic's Easter service, where thousands on the Gulf Coast attended, Brandon Conner, senior pastor of Mosaic, announced that the following week would begin a series on sex, where they tackle what the Bible has to say about it and how we can apply its principles to our lives.

"There’s no real reason why we are teaching on this, other than we are a church that believes in expository preaching. So, if it says it in the Bible, we will say it from the stage. We don’t shy away from the ugly truth, but we also won’t go out of our way to call out something that isn't in the text. We are currently in 1 Corinthians, and Paul is very specific in his letters to the Corinthians, so in order to give full respect to the text, so must we," says Communications & Media director, Leslie Ferrer.

In addition to regular weekend services, this Sunday evening Mosaic is showcasing the movie, The Heart of Man. This film follows a man’s journey as he struggles with lust & shame and combines the artistic account with real life testimonies of those who have fought & overcome sexual addictions. This showing of the film is a one-night event, in the hopes that that it will lead some people to long term help.

Mosaic offers weekly recovery meetings for a variety of things, whether it be addictions, divorce, or other hurts. One of these groups deals specifically with sexual sin, and all in attendance for this event will be invited to get involved. Ferrer shares, "It’s a great opportunity for them to get in a group immediately to start getting the help they need, or start giving help to those that need it."

The film will play in their main sanctuary and is open to all church members as well as the community. "Our main goal at Mosaic is to always try to reach outside these walls. So yes, we would love the community to be involved!" states Ferrer. They are recommending their viewing audience to be eighteen and older.

What a great example of a church stepping out as a spiritual hospital in their community! If you or your church would like to get involved in a church or community effort like this, be sure to check out The Heart of Man’s resource page here.

~ Brittany

Please let us know if you know of a church offering similar help by filling out a brief form.

Submit your church

Tags: Heart of Man Sexual Addiction Church

newsletter marsha shame

What if Shame was a Bridge, not a Barrier?
~Jackie Hill Perry (quote from the film The Heart of Man)

by Marsha Means, M.A., October 2017

While chatting with my drop dead gorgeous niece last weekend—who happens to be a medical doctor and single—I half-jokingly said, "Well, when you think you've found Mister Right, ask him to take a lie detector test!" My mistake. She quickly abandoned the conversation, and as she stood to leave she said, "I would hope I have better discernment than to choose someone who would need that."
Inwardly I groaned: Didn't we all?
How could so many—in fact, millions of us—miss the clues that could have shown us betrayal was ahead in our most intimate relationship? Did God not hear our prayers for wisdom? Was it our failure—or His?
Or, could it possibly be He didn't fail us at all, and neither did our discernment. Could it be it's our perspective that's flawed? The perspective that says that if a person struggles with sexual sin, he's automatically off the list.
What if, as humans, failure is a given, just as the Bible says? What if God knew we would fail, which is why He created a way to experience His grace? What if He never intended for us to feel shame and a need to hide our true selves from Him and from one another when we fail? Guilt yes, but shame no.
What if failure could be a bridge toward each other, rather than a barrier that traps us in secrecy and addiction? And what if an atmosphere of grace made room for truth-telling, especially in the Church, and it trickled down until it permeated even our most intimate relationships? In the movie the author Paul Young tells us, "Secrets have been killing me my whole life, but every time we share our secrets, our shame is cut in half." Could shame become a bridge, not a barrier? Could a grace-filled space help us overcome the failures and help us realize we need each other in order to heal? Could that grace-filled space turn the Church into a place of healing, rather than pretense?
As I ponder these and related questions this year, I'm not alone. Similar thoughts and questions are beautifully woven throughout a powerful new movie that will show in cities across the country on Thursday, September 14th, and that day only. Titled, "The Heart of A Man," it depicts our struggle with lust and sexual sin, and God's vast, unending grace. And it brings the hope-filled message that if a relationship or church is a safe place to be real about our struggles, that grace can help us win the battle with sexual sin. This is a link to the "The Heart of Man" trailer:
Gaps reveal who you truly are. They will expose every part of you, parts healthy and unhealthy, your beliefs or lack of beliefs, your ingrained habits, and your strengths and weaknesses. How you respond to gaps will determine your future. "Gap Times" as I call them, those distinct times of transition, are some of the most significant and influential times in our lives because there is an unbelievable amount of insight and wisdom to be gained for those who will embrace the deep, rich experiences that gaps uniquely offer. Gaps are where deep healing and true transformation can begin.
Tickets are available for purchase at (simply do a search for your area or city for theaters and showtimes). I will be in the audience in my city's theater. I encourage you to see it too if it is within driving distance from where you live.
If you watch it, I invite you to dialog with me after the movie. I would love to keep this conversation going and hear your thoughts and feelings. The week of Sept. 14 you will find, on our Facebook page, a pinned post (at the top) about the film:
Please stop by and share!
In a world that makes it impossible for kids to grow up free from exposure to sexual content and stimulation they lack the maturity to understand, these are questions that must be answered. In this digital age, children can no longer be completely protected. If every male (and female) who acts on lust needs to be removed from the available bachelors list, few of our daughters will experience motherhood, and most of us will never become grandparents! And that's too high a price to pay for shame and the silence and secrecy it fosters.
Please join me in watching and supporting this important movie, as it brings into the open the pain being lived behind closed doors,and the secrecy that keeps people trapped there. The pain that sits in silence in every pew in every church every Sunday around the world. My mission in the years I have left on earth is to somehow do my small part to help change us and the Church. So I'm excited that the makers of this movie share that passion. Please support their mission with your attendance. Together, we can make a difference in our, our children's, and our grandchildren's world!
With Everyone's Healing at Heart,
Marsha Means, M.A.
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
New Groups at A Circle of Joy

Upcoming is a group for women who have made the decision to file for divorce. If you would like more information on this divorce group or would like to be notified of when it begins, please contact Katherine: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

newsletter jodi options

Considering Options: Choosing to Stay with a Sex Addict

by Coach Jodi; edited by Marsha Means, M.A., August 2017

Ten years ago when I discovered I was the partner of a sex addict, I felt as if I had fallen into a deep, dark hole: a pit really, and initially, I had no idea where I was, or how to find my way out. Back then—and even now—I identified with this poem about addiction and recovery. For me, it accurately portrays a partner’s journey:

An Autobiography In Five Short Chapters
by Portia Nelson (click here for printable version of original poem)
1. I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost. I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.
2. I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in. I can’t believe I’m in the same place, but it isn’t my fault. It still takes a long time to get out.
3. I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it there. I still fall in. It’s a habit. My eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.
4. I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.
5. I walk down a different street.
Upon discovery or disclosure, each of us can identify with Chapter One. We wonder, where in the world am I? How did I get here? We feel disoriented, confused, and shocked, and many of us say we feel like we’re spinning in a deep, dark vortex. And we’ve no idea how to get out.
Two Questions Helped Me Know What I Wanted to Do
Two simple questions helped me determine what I needed and wanted to do.

1. What can I not live with? This question forces us to determine our “deal breakers.” These are the behaviors we know we cannot and will not tolerate in our marriage. When we encounter true deal breakers, the choice to stay is no longer an option, at least not long term. But sometimes leaving takes time. It can require time to plan and prepare, even if we don’t want it to. However, having a plan, and persistently working it will enable us to leave as soon as the pieces of our plan are in place.

(Please note: This newsletter does not apply to abusive and dangerous situations. Anyone in an abusive situation and in danger must seek safety immediately --- to stay when harm and danger are imminent, for you or your children, is not an option.)
2. What can I live with? Most of us at least consider leaving. And when we do, we’re forced to examine our ability—or inability—to make it on our own, if we leave the marriage. Finances, children, family matters, or health issues might make staying the wisest—or the only—choice. At least for a season. I took the time I needed to sift through all of the painful feelings of betrayal, abandonment, loss, and feeling less-than, and eventually I chose to stay, even though my marriage wasn’t healed.
These two questions helped me gain the clarity and peace I needed to make healthy decisions about my life and my future. You may have different questions you need to answer, because each of our journeys is uniquely our own.
Coming to Understand the Strange World Of Sex Addiction
At some point post-discovery, our shock wears off and we bounce between Chapters 2 and 3 of the poem above.

During this time we try to learn what sex addiction is about, and how to care for ourselves in a marriage tainted by it. Like me, many partners realize, for their own reasons, they need or want to stay in their marriage. Some women will stay for a short while as they work their plan and prepare to leave. And others will choose to stay, perhaps permanently. Either way, partners can use this time to learn, heal, and prepare for their future.

Six Tasks that Equip Us to Heal Whether We Choose to Stay or Leave
The following task list helped me take responsibility for my own well being, and it kept me from slipping into the negative patterns that can come when married to a sex addict.

*Finding Support: Support and a healing process is crucial for for partners of sex addicts. One of the best resources available is our Journey to Healing and Joy workbook. Working through this workbook with a coach and a small group of women is the best gift you could give yourself. At the end of the 12 weeks you will have been given the opportunity to share your story in a safe setting while gaining new skills and tools to use not only in your marriage but in every relationship in your life.
*Separating Your Healing from the Addict's: After I learned as much as I needed to about this addiction, I focused my energy on learning ways to heal from my trauma symptoms. And I learned that if we want to heal, we must separate our healing from that of the sex addict. Learning how to detach and refocus on our own healing for a season is one of the hardest things we must do, but without it, we will never heal.
*Utilizing the Power of the Serenity Prayer: The Serenity Prayer can bring calm, clarity, and peace in the space of thirty seconds. It’s like a form of spiritual breathing. The simplicity of this prayer helps me discern my needs, and helps me access the empowerment I need to meet them. It enables me to “let go” when needed, and it provides a continuing source of courage and comfort. I love its wisdom and it’s simplicity: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
*Learning and Using Boundaries: Learning how to detach from my husband in a healthy way provided a safe space to learn and create the boundaries I needed to begin to heal. It took a lot of trial and error, but I eventually learned how to create healthy boundaries to keep myself safe. If you need help with boundaries, our A Circle Of Joy's Coach Carin facilitates a boundaries support group for that purpose.
*Taking Responsibility for Our Own Well Being: The Life Model has played an important role in my healing. And nothing is more powerful in helping us take responsibility for our own healing and well being than the Life Model principles. Learning to “return to joy from negative emotions,” and “using joy to increase my emotional capacity so it’s higher than my pain” were foundations for me. Another Life Model principle that’s helped me is “Learning to suffer well.” This means, “Can I be true to who I am in the midst of suffering?” We touch on the Life Model principles in our Journey to Healing & Joy groups, but if you want to learn about these skills and many more, consider participating in a Healing through Joy group with Coach Katherine or with me, Coach Jodi.
*Finding Purpose In Our Pain: While early post-discovery is a very painful time, finding “the purpose in the pain” is highly valuable. Women have even said it is a sacred time where they feel more connected to their true self. Once they experience “being well,” and learn new ways to take care of themselves (or return to activities that bring them joy), wonderful, beautiful things can happen. And they learn how to be well in a less than ideal marriage.
In time, I was able to regain a sense of safety and security, even though my marriage wasn’t healed. Now, ten years post-discovery, I see myself on Chapter 4 of the poem. I now know where the holes are, and I am able to walk around them. I still have triggers but they no longer have the power to hijack my brain. I can access and use empowerment to take care of myself in healthy ways. And I know Chapter 5 is available to me if I am not able to keep myself emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, and physically safe while staying married.
I encourage you to find the resources and tools you need to heal, whether or not your husband chooses recovery, and whether or not you stay. Healing is possible for any woman who discovers she is married to a sex addict.
While I did not choose this addiction, I do get to choose my story. I am not responsible for my husband’s recovery, but I am responsible to make sure this addiction doesn’t get “two for the price of one.” Ten years ago I was determined to find the help and support I needed to heal and feel like myself again, and I’m so glad I did. My hope is that you will find the help you need to heal from the pain this addiction has brought into your life. We are here to help you on your healing journey.
With your healing at heart,
Coach Jodi
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.