Monthly Archives: June 2017

How Did You and Your Spouse Meet? Here’s My Story.

In the United States, June is considered the month of weddings! Because more weddings take place during this month than any other. My wedding was not in June, but I was thinking about the whole courtship, engagement, nuptials business and thought maybe it was time to tell y’all how I met my husband.

Because I love a good story, and this is a great story. Plus it’s got God running all through it.

Blog post title + picture of J and her husband in the park

After graduating from Abilene Christian University with a bachelor’s degree in history, and no teaching certificate, I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. I had abandoned my original plan to attend law school, although I wanted to go graduate school in something. However, I wasn’t ready for that step, so I returned home to get a job and make some money.

I got a job at a law firm as a legal assistant (with prior experience as a legal secretary) and began researching what I wanted to do next. With no strings attached, I concluded that I could move anywhere and do anything, and this youthful moment was the time to do that.

J. Parker sitting at office cubicle in law firm where she worked after college

At the office where I worked after college

Having lived in Texas all my life, I hadn’t really been around mountains, and I was supremely curious about that landscape. I concluded I wanted to move somewhere that had mountains (even wrote a song back then titled “I Need Mountains”). Seattle, Washington topped the list. I had friends who’d moved there, and they encouraged me to join them.

But while I worked for money to finance my move, something was happening in Seattle: The job market was declining, and the cost of living was rising. Moreover, I lived in the Piney Woods of Texas where it rains a fair amount, and for every day that it rained where I lived, it rained at least one more in Seattle. I didn’t know how long I’d have to live in my parents’ house and work at the law firm to finance this trip, as well as whether I’d actually like the climate there.

I began to research other possibilities. My priorities: mountains, low to moderate cost of living, good job market. I literally got out a map and identified cities, then gathered information about each. My eventual decision: Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Had I ever been to Albuquerque, New Mexico? No, I had not. But I set my sights there and a few months later, I packed everything I owned into my Toyota Corolla and moved to Albuquerque with only a hotel reservation.

1987 Toyota Corolla, four-door, sitting on side of street

Not my actual car, but it looked a lot like this, photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

My father later said that I made it happen because I didn’t know how crazy it was. (He said it nicer, but that was basically it.) I also discovered later that he quelled my mother’s fears by saying that if it didn’t work out, I’d just drive back home.

Now West Texas is known for being somewhat barren, but it is beaten in that category by Eastern New Mexico. I remember driving for hours as I entered the state and thinking, What have I done? At one point, I needed to use the restroom, and there was no place to go. Not even a tree in sight to hide behind. Looking back, I guess it’s true that God sometimes takes you through the wilderness to get to the Promised Land.

After arriving at my hotel — and discovering that Albuquerque is actually quite beautiful — I did four important things: toured the city (including a trip to the mountaintop on the Sandia Peak Tramway), applied for jobs, started attending church, and hunted for an apartment.

View of Albuquerque from Sandia Peak, with tramway in left of photo

View of Albuquerque from Sandia Peak, photo by Nightscream via Wikimedia Commons

I narrowed my apartment choice down to two places. Objectively speaking, I should have chosen the slightly nicer complex, although I would have to furnish it myself. But when I toured the other complex, I had this strangely positive feeling about it. I chalked it up to this apartment being already furnished and the hospitality of the manager, but looking back, I think something else was going on.

Within three weeks, I had secured a secretarial job at a law firm, moved into the apartment, and began regularly attending a large, local church where the singles group was inviting and active. Mind you, I’m an introvert, so this was all really hard for me … but I was determined to make friends and thrive in my new, chosen home.

With that in mind, I headed to a church singles devotional at a member’s house. I remember the trepidation I had stepping across the threshold, or rather forcing myself to step across that threshold. I would have much rather been at home eating drive-through food and reading a book. But I’d come this far, and I needed to settle in and get to know other Christians.

A few minutes into the evening, a guy walked in, wearing a light-colored shirt, shorts, and a knee brace. He was tall, dark-headed, with glasses, and obviously athletic given his build. I didn’t linger on him, though. I was simply trying to keep my head above water in a group of people I didn’t know. (If you’re a true introvert, you know what I’m talking about. If you’re an extrovert, just trust me — we like people, but it takes time to acclimate.)

After the devotional, we all ended up in the kitchen, and looking at this guy more closely, it struck me that he was familiar. That’s when he said something to me like, “You look familiar. Do we know each other?” We ran through all the possible connections we could have — church affiliations, college attendance, mutual friends, etc. Nothing, not a thing. But where else could I have met this guy? I’d moved to a city three weeks prior in which I knew nobody.

Finally, he asked, “Where do you live?” You might think this is a question a young lady shouldn’t answer to a relatively strange man. But I don’t recall feeling any fear or hesitation; something about this man put me at ease. (Not that that’s always a good indicator; I’m just recalling my story.) I shared the name of my apartment complex. He answered, “That’s where I live. Which building are you in?” I shared my building number. He answered, “That’s the building I’m in. What apartment?” I shared my apartment number, which was C. He answered, “I’m in apartment D. I’m your next-door neighbor.”

And that’s when it hit me. I’d seen this guy before — on a Sunday morning wearing slacks, a dress shirt, and a tie with his Bible in one hand and taking out his trash with the other. I remembered that moment, because I’d thought how nice it was to see a single man heading out to church as I was.

Our church was big enough that I didn’t recall seeing him there, but we had spotted each other around the complex. And thus began a friendship.

Since I didn’t have a television at the time (it wouldn’t fit in the car), he invited me over to watch shows with him. I cooked him dinner, and he surprisingly still stuck around. He showed up at my doorstep one day with a sack from Wal-Mart and pulled out ice-cube trays he’d bought me, because I’d mentioned that the furnished refrigerator didn’t come with enough trays (my very first gift from him). I played my guitar (which I did fit in the car) and sang him a couple of songs I’d written. We talked about our family backgrounds, church history, and Star Trek: The Next Generation, which we were watching together.

One night, while sitting on my couch, he kissed me.

Later I asked him where and when we had our first kiss, and he said something different that was totally wrong. Because if my memory is a sieve, his is a drain. But that’s okay, because as long as we kept kissing, we’d have plenty of memories to choose from.

J. and her then-fiancé embracing in a close-up photo

J. & her then-fiancé (we’re so young!)

Five months after we met, and about three and a half months after we started really dating, he proposed. Or I should say that he asked me to marry him. There was no on-the-knee, “Will you be my beloved wife?” moment. Rather we were shopping in the mall one day, he pulled me into a jewelry store, and about a half hour later he purchased one of the engagement rings I’d tried on. As we walked out, he said, “Oh, by the way, will you marry me?” Ah, my romantic fella!

Three months after we got engaged, we got married. Oh yes, we did. EIGHT MONTHS from meet to marry! With a son in college, this now horrifies me. What we were we thinking? Just eight months?!

J as a bride, her husband as the groom, a wedding pic of just the two of them

Happy (and with no idea what we’re getting ourselves into)

But remember how I said that God was a main player in this story. What I didn’t tell you is right before heading to Albuquerque, I’d sworn off men. I was done with dating, with looking for the right guy, with even letting my heart consider a relationship. Consequently, I think God’s approach was to slam me upside the head with a fiancé and get me hitched before I could sabotage my destiny. God’s pushy that way.

If you’ve ever tried to resist Him, you know what I’m talking about.

Sometimes I do wish my husband and I had waited a little longer, gotten more premarital counseling, and spent more time with our respective families to ease that transition, but the marriage itself was a good idea. And for the rest of my life, I can say that I married the boy next door.

Now share your meet story in the comments. Hopefully, in far fewer words than I took. Just give us the highlights of how you and your spouse first met. I’d love to hear, and it’s always nice to remember what made you choose your special someone.

What Posture Do You Use When You Pray?

When I go looking for photos to go along with my blog posts on prayer, I see lot of different positions people strike to approach their Heavenly Father. Let me show you a sampling:

Woman praying in church sanctuary

Kneeling, Hands Folded

Woman's hands on Bible folded in prayer

Hands Folded on Bible

Person on knees praying at sunrise with hands lifted to Heaven

Kneeling with Hands Raised

A group of young women bow their heads and pray while holding hands

Holding Hands with Others

Indeed, there are many different postures you can take. And I’ve come to believe our posture can help us focus on the act of praying.

Growing up, I was taught you had to close your eyes during prayer. As an adult, I looked back and understood the goal was to shut out distractions so that you could concentrate on God. But honestly, keeping my eyes closed tended to be even more distracting. It was seriously freeing when I realized that I didn’t have to close my eyes to prayer. I could choose my prayer posture.

You can choose your prayer posture. Click To Tweet

I scanned the 165 verses in the New Testament in which the word “pray” appears, and kneeling appears to be the most common posture (Luke 22:41, Acts 9:40, Acts 20:36, Acts 21:5, Ephesians 3:14-16). But we also have examples of lifting hands in prayer (1 Timothy 2:8), placing hands on someone to pray for them (Matthew 19:13), and falling face-down on the ground (Mark 14:35, Matthew 26:39). That’s nine verses, leaving a whopping 156 New Testament verses that just talk about praying with no specific posture.

Maybe the underlying message is get into a posture that makes you aware of your relationship to your Father and/or the person you’re praying with/for and then just talk to God. What’s most important is that you pray.

I’ve been experimenting with prayer postures to see what works. Sometimes it depends on what I’m praying about or the time of day or my environment. For instance, I love praying outside, especially on a star-filled night. Looking up to the Heavens and seeing the bright lights of faraway constellations always reminds me how big my God is, while still making me feel that He cares about little ol’ me.

But I started to wonder about when we pray as a couple. What postures are good for couples to take when going to God about their marriage and/or sexual intimacy?

We can:

  • bow our heads together
  • hold hands
  • link arms
  • embrace one another fully
  • kneel together
  • raise our hands toward Heaven
  • lie prostrate next one another

And really anything else you can come up with. It’s a good idea to try different prayer postures to see what works for you as a couple. What helps you both focus on God and feel connected to one another as you pray?

Try different prayer postures to see what works for you as a couple. Click To Tweet

Once during an interview, I received an excellent question about where and how my husband and I specifically pray together. I ended up admitting that my favorite place to pray with him is in the shower. Yep, that posture is hugging one another under a stream of water, and it feels very focused and intimate to me.

I don’t know where and how you and your spouse best pray together. But think about your prayer posture. The right posture might help you pray together for your marriage and marriage bed.

Q&A with J: Is Animated Porn a Problem?

I recently talked about seeing porn, and I thought this was a great follow-up question from a reader:

I’ve been reading your blog posts for a while now, but the one you recently did on your first experience with porn stirred me to email you with a question. Does animated porn, featuring not-real people, affect people like traditional porn does (and if so, how?). Whenever I read blogs on the effects of porn and similar topics, I feel that none of the topics they cover apply to animated porn. This leads me to believe the two are significantly different at least in terms of their effects. In short, I was hoping to hear your opinion on the subject.

Blog post title with ANIMATED word 3D against a bunch of 2D letters

I hadn’t actually seen any animated porn before this question. This is always a tough thing for a Christian sex blogger: How much do I go look up to be fully informed on the issue? And how much “research” is crossing a line?

Typing in “animated porn” in Google, the top hits were videos on porn sites. I knew I didn’t want to see any of that. I figured a few still images instead would give me the sense of what’s out there so I could speak to the issue as a whole. Clicking over to images, I saw maybe a page of stuff, and clicked right off. Don’t run this search! Rather, let me tell you what animated porn is like, so you’ll know and then we can all move on.

It’s not typically sketches or the stuff of comic strips. It’s three-dimensional animation that features highly unrealistic body parts and sexual acts. Think about it: Even things that can’t exist with real humans can exist with the tools of computer-generated imagery.

Animated porn is not artistic, but rather salacious.

So yeah, it’s porn. It’s an image generated to sexually titillate you in a way removed from God’s design for sex in marriage. Perhaps you’d put this more in the category of erotica than porn, because it’s pure fantasy, but it shares several problematic features:

 1. It’s inherently selfish. This stuff is designed to stimulate and satisfy solo sexual desires. The interaction is you and a screen. Now I know some argue that if you watch porn, even animated porn, together, it can arouse you and then you act out your sexuality with each other. To which some small part of me always wants to say, “Jeez, are you so lame at turning on your mate that you have to feed them porn? Up your game!”

Okay, maybe that’s a little too unfiltered. But the point is merely that you are using someone else (albeit a computer-drawn character) to get you turned on, rather than making the effort to connect with your spouse. But getting aroused by your spouse is always the model for sexual intimacy in the Bible.

Getting aroused by your spouse is always the model for sexual intimacy in the Bible. Click To Tweet

2. It’s lusting. Jesus said, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Since you’re using those animated characters specifically for the purpose of sexual arousal and satisfaction, you have to be lusting while you’re watching it.

In the Book of Job, the grief-stricken Job defends his innocence in this way:

If my heart has been seduced by a woman,
  or if I have lusted for my neighbor’s wife,
then let my wife serve another man;
  let other men sleep with her.
For lust is a shameful sin,
  a crime that should be punished.
It is a fire that burns all the way to hell.
  It would wipe out everything I own” (31:9-12, NLT)

He doesn’t say, “If I cheated on my wife…” He says if I was seduced by another woman or lusting after another’s wife, and he proclaims lust “a shameful sin.” I know that a real woman and an animated one are not the exact same thing, but can you really see Job saying, “Hey God, I only lusted after the three-dimensional CGI babes with the big knockers, so cut me a break!” Nope, it’s all lusting.

3. It’s objectifying. Trust me on this one. These are not normal people. Their sexual features are incredibly pronounced, so the obvious goal is viewing these characters as a collection of body parts. You are not looking at animated porn and coming away with, “Gee, he had nice green eyes and a kind demeanor.”

Yes, of course we linger on our mate’s body parts at times. Song of Songs has passages like these:

Your breasts are like two fawns, twin fawns of a gazelle grazing among the lilies” (4:5).

His body is like bright ivory, glowing with lapis lazuli” (5:14).

But making love with your spouse involves an appreciation of the whole person, not just the “goodies.” And it’s not okay to treat others as body parts there for your entertainment. Yes, these are pretend characters, but you’re training your mind to see others and sex itself as a body part showcase, rather than focusing on the intimacy God desires a married couple to have.

I’ll admit that yes, animated porn is less horrifying to me, just like erotica, for this one reason: Real people are not involved on the other end.

Having read quite a bit about the porn industry, my heart genuinely aches for those who engage in the making of porn. I’ve heard the whole “they’re consenting…they’re emotionally healthy…they’re providing a service” arguments. But I don’t buy that treating your own body like an object for display is a good thing. It’s disrespectful to yourself and to God’s creation.

No good parent would say, “Hey, I can’t wait for my daughter to grow up and show off her private parts to the world.” Why on earth would we think God wants that for any of his daughters? Or sons?

So yeah, I’ll give you that one, that animated porn isn’t quite the same as real-life porn. But it’s still wrong, because it’s selfish, it’s lusting, and it’s objectifying.

Focus on your spouse and arousing one another. That’s far more worth your time and honoring to the One who created sex.

Are You (Too) Content with “Better Than It Used to Be”?

I recently wrote a pretty unfiltered post about the problem many of us wives have with being contentious in our homes. Sometimes I think God has me write things so that I’ll pay attention to where I need to grow in my marriage.

Because after that post, I had a couple of different conversations in my home on that topic. One of them involved my older son, an adult man now, and how his personality and mine differ in expressing emotions. Now, if you’ve been around Hot, Holy & Humorous a while, you know that I’ve compared my husband to Spock, in how logical and non-expressive he can be.

Well, our elder spawn has taken on more personality traits from his father and could well be Spock Jr. So you can imagine when emotionally expressive mom gets frustrated (as all normal moms periodically do), she can take on a “tone” which doesn’t play well with the Vulcan species in her family.

But as we calmly talked about this issue, I pointed out how much better I am than I used to be. I wanted major credit for having lowered my volume a few dial settings and holding back on the contemptuous body language (such as eye rolling) that I used to display. I felt like it was unfair to say that I needed to improve a lot because “Hey, this is way better than it used to be!”

Guess who shows up then? Yeah, I’m pretty sure it was the Holy Spirit, poking me in the ribs to tell me that better ain’t good enough. Better does not meet “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Jeez, Jesus, that’s a really high standard to aim for!

My conclusion was that I still have some issues to work on.

Blog post title with illustrated couple giving "okay" hand gesture

However, I thought about this with the sexual intimacy in our marriages as well. I periodically hear from couples say that things are better than they used to be. Now I’m 100% sure we should celebrate that progress, those victories, those shifts in our marriage that strengthen our bond and honor God’s design for sex.

But are you setting down Ebenezers to mark progress along your path, or settling in for good with the attitude of “good enough”?

If you don’t know what an Ebenezer is, it comes from the story of the judge Samuel who sought God’s help in fighting the Philistines. After Israel’s army defeated their attackers, 1 Samuel 7:12 says, “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.’” Since then Ebenezer has come to mean “a commemoration of divine assistance” (Merriam-Webster).

Samuel’s use of “thus far” is apt, because by 1 Samuel 12, the Israelites are back to fighting with the Philistines. It’s many years before King David finally defeats the Philistines for good, and in between are many battles in which the Israelites seek God’s help to win. Every hard-fought battle is a step toward eventual victory, but along the way were many moments that called for Ebenezers.

Like the Israelites versus the Philistines, I suspect many marriages are in a constant battle, fighting to reach God’s design for sex. But it’s easy to become complacent, to settle in and say, “Okay, that’s good enough.”

Do any of these describe your marriage?

  • “We used to have sex once a month, but now I give it to him twice a month, which is enough.”
  • “She never had orgasms before, but now she has one every few times we make love.”
  • “I show up regularly — what more does he want?”
  • “I’ve only looked at porn a few times this month.”
  • “I tried communicating about our improving our sexual intimacy, but he didn’t want to talk about it, so I gave up and decided our sex life was fine.”

God’s not a fan of good-enough in the marriage bed.

God's not a fan of good-enough in the marriage bed. Click To Tweet

Two of my favorite Bible verses about sex are:

A loving doe, a graceful deer — may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love” (Proverbs 5:19).

Eat, friends, drink, and be drunk with love!” (Song of Songs 5:1, ESV)

There are many warnings in the Bible against gluttony and drunkenness, but sexual love in a marriage is one place where God throws out the concept of “enough” and tells us to go overboard — to get intoxicated.

Isn’t that amazing?

Now of course, you can make sex itself into an idol. You should ask whether you’re seeking a truly better, more intimate sex life with your spouse or merely seeking your own pleasure or some unrealistic fantasy.

But I stand by the idea that we can continue to make progress throughout our married lives. And like Samuel, we can ask for divine help.

Indeed, if we ask for God’s design for sex in our marriage, that’s where our Lord is generous. What that looks like might not be what you think (e.g., lots more sex), and He usually expects us to start with ourselves, but He wants our physical intimacy to deepen so that our whole marriage can be strengthened.

We shouldn’t stop pursuing godly sex in our marriage. We shouldn’t cease improving our own attitudes and theology about this beautiful act of love. We shouldn’t settle for “better than it used to be.”

Thinking back to the Ebenezer story, what’s particularly interesting is that the constant battle with the Philistines came from the Israelites saying “good enough” long before Samuel was around. After the Israelites moved into Canaan, there is this passage:

When Joshua had grown old, the Lord said to him, ‘You are now very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over. This is the land that remains: all the regions of the Philistines and Geshurites, from the Shihor River on the east of Egypt to the territory of Ekron on the north, all of it counted as Canaanite though held by the five Philistine rulers in Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron…‘” (Joshua 13:1-3). 

God told Joshua there were still places to be conquered. But the Israelites didn’t follow through. What places regarding our marriage have yet to be conquered? Will we follow through?

Praying for Marriage Blog Readers

This week, I’m not asking you so much to pray for your marriage — although you should keep doing that! — but I want to focus instead on praying for other readers.

Blog post title + two sets of hands praying on tops of Bibles

In the comments and emails I receive, I see the wide variety of questions, struggles, and victories couples have in the area of sexual intimacy. If you read through comment threads on marriage blogs, you see some of that as well.

From time to time, I will answer someone with “I’m saying a prayer for your situation.” And then I do it, right then and there.

I used to say, “I’ll pray” or “I’ll be praying,” but I have to admit that I did a very poor job of tracking who I wanted to be praying for. Some people are great at this, but what organizational skills I have don’t really extend to my prayer life. Instead I found that it was better to pray for the couple when I felt emotionally moved in the moment and when their story was fresh on my mind.

Sometimes, couples are dealing with great conflict over sexual intimacy in the marriage, sometimes it’s a blind spot one spouse has regarding sex, sometimes it’s a lack of communication or bad theology, and sometimes — God be praised! — it’s redemption and healing in the marriage bed. All of these circumstances are worth bringing before God and laying them at His feet.

But while much of our prayer is done privately, there is power in a group praying together for the same thing.

“‘Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them‘” (Matthew 18:19-20).

In Jesus’s direct teachings about prayer, 33 of the 37 times he uses the plural “you.” (You know, if the Bible would adopt the Southern “y’all,” we could clear all that up.) It’s also interesting that the Lord’s model prayer, part of the Sermon on the Mount, uses the plural: “Our Father…Give us today our daily bread…Lead us not into temptation…”

I just love those comments when one reader offers to pray for another reader. Because I think we’re tapping into something really amazing when several people pray for someone. Some possible benefits are:

  • The peace and hope a reader feels when they know others are praying for them.
  • The community we all feel when we pray for one another.
  • The power that God unleashes when we come together in His name. (See Acts 4:23-31.)

Marriage bloggers do pray for their readers. But I invite you to pray for them too.

Pray that those seeking marriage help find the blog, book, or other resource they need. Pray that those who read this blog, and others, come with open hearts and minds, truly desiring God’s design for sex in marriage. Pray that those struggling in their marriage will find practical answers, emotional support, spiritual guidance, and personal healing. Pray that sexual temptations will be overcome. Pray that those who have begun the process of improving their sexual intimacy will have the strength and perseverance to continue along that path. Pray that those who find victory will give glory to God and share their testimony with others.

And if while reading through the comments, you are touched by someone’s situation, say a prayer for the couple right then and there. You’re also welcome to reply to that comment (with your name or something anonymous like “A Friend”) and tell that person you’re praying.

Let’s pray for each other — for individuals, for marriages, and for marriage beds.

Source: Lifeway – Sermon: The Priority of Praying Together – Acts 6 by Lloyd Stilley; GotQuestions.org – What is the importance and value of group prayer?