Category Archives: Body Image

What Makes You Feel Sexy?

I’ve been listening to Spanish radio.

This is an odd choice because I speak only a little Spanish. But I was looking for musical playlists for when I write and discovered that listening to a song in a foreign language worked well. I enjoyed the tunes, but wasn’t distracted by the lyrics. Then I fell in love with a few specific songs, checked their translations to make sure they weren’t explicit, and downloaded those to my MP3 player.

So last night, as I was listening to Juan Magan, Gente de Zona, etc. and salsa dancing in my kitchen, I thought, This makes me feel sexy. It wasn’t the lyrics, but the way I was moving my body to the music. It put me in touch with the shape of my body, my feminine form, and how it moves. It made me appreciate God’s handiwork and mirrored the body awareness I have when making love with my husband.

I got to thinking: What other activities might make a wife feel sexy? Do we know?

With a woman's dancing feet

It’s a good question. Because maybe dancing doesn’t do it for you. Maybe it’s something else.

It’s likely several things.

I’m not talking about what gets you aroused. (Although it might.) Rather, I’m thinking about what makes you feel good about your body, your sensuality, your sexuality. Things like bubble baths, body massages, lotion applied to your skin by your husband, sleeping naked, some forms of exercise, aromatherapy, etc.

Those little things we do for ourselves can put us into better contact with our bodies and make us feel more sexy both in the moment and in our marriages. We come away feeling like a woman who is worth making love to and who can bask in physical pleasure.

I’ve talked plenty before about awakening your senses. When readying yourself for sexual intimacy, I believe it’s very important to do two things:

1. Relax. I’m not talking about that feeling you get right before you fall asleep, when your whole body is a jellied lump of flesh. This isn’t the last part of the yoga class where you’re supposed to lie there and imagine some peaceful setting and let all your muscles loosen. (I can’t do that yoga thing anyway, because right after I picture that placid lake, three water skiers go careening by, followed by a motor boat and a party pontoon. But maybe that’s just me…) I’m talking about stepping away from the daily demands of your life, taking time for self-care, and easing into a different role. Relaxing your brain. Which is a challenge for many women.

And I can honestly say that when I’m listening to music and dancing, my brain is not mulling over my to-do list or caught up in the latest political controversy. I’m pretty relaxed. I feel the same with certain other activities, like soaking in a hot bath while reading a book or digging my feet into the sand on the beach. These relaxing activities also make me aware of my body, which brings me to…

2. Awaken. Seemingly paradoxical, you have to awaken other parts of yourself — the parts that feed into feeling sexy. This isn’t just your lady parts, gals. Rather, it includes your five senses. With special attention paid to your skin, which has like a billion receptors or something.

You also want to lean into appreciating your femininity, whatever that looks like for you. I used to feel not-so-feminine, because I wasn’t quite as elegant or delicate as many women I knew. But you have all the features of a woman, and there is plenty to embrace about your own femininity. You have curves — yes, whether you’re a hourglass figure, an athletic build, or apple-shaped, you have curves. Own them, love them. You have sensitivities in places where men don’t, and you should enjoy those. You are built differently and beautifully.

Song of Songs says, “Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires” (3:5, 8:4). But when you’re married, Love desires to be awakened. So go ahead and arouse it, awaken it, embrace it.

Figure out what makes you feel sexy. Then do those things.

For myself, I’ve decided I need to dance more. But I’ve also made a list of other activities that help me appreciate my body and my sex appeal to my husband. Just my own list of 5 Ways to Feel Sexy, with actions I should take more often and more enthusiastically. I suspect my marriage bed benefit.

How about you make your own list? Any ideas to share with others?

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Are You His Type?

I’m too short for my husband. Our nine-inch different in height means I must stand on tiptoes and he must lean down for us to kiss one another’s lips. When we dance, our bodies don’t quite line up, which I try to compensate for with higher-heels (or higher-heeled cowboy boots). When I ask him to reach stuff on the top shelf, he sometimes looks at me like, “How short are you?” Answer? Not tall. And quite possibly shorter than any of the girls he dated before me.

It would be more convenient if I were a few inches taller. And I think he’d like not bending his neck down so far. But, despite repeated prayers to God when I was a teenager, I stopped growing at some point and that was that.

Am I his type? Not when it comes to height.

Are You His Type?

I’ve heard from wives who believe that their husbands dating women previously with different appearances or noticing other women now who differ greatly from how they look…means hubby doesn’t really like their body or beauty type.

From talking to men, reading their comments and emails, and studying research and information about their “species,” I have some thoughts on that.

He wouldn’t have asked you out, dated you all that time, and married you if he wasn’t attracted to you. By and large, this is truth. A guy might have a brief encounter with a woman he doesn’t find all that physically appealing, but he wouldn’t invest all that time and effort with his eventual wife if he didn’t think she was worth eyeballing, touching, and becoming intimate with. As visual as many men are (and yes, I know not all, and women can be visual too), they are motivated to find a woman who is visually pleasing.

Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder. What appeals to one person won’t necessarily appeal to another. If your body type is not the typical definition of gorgeous in our (twisted) society, that doesn’t mean you’re not beautiful. You, my dear, have your own physical, and even sexual, appeal. What matters most is you believing the truth that God created you as a beautiful woman and that you are beautiful in your husband’s eye.

Your attractiveness is strongly affected by your inner beauty. When men are surveyed on which character is more appealing from the TV series Gilligan’s Island, the sexy bombshell Ginger typically loses to the sweet, bubbly, and personable Mary Ann. Sure, the actress who played Mary Ann was pretty, but if you’d switched those actresses’ roles, I think the Mary Ann character would still win out. Because who she is makes her more attractive. Likewise, I remember a conversation with several girls in college about a guy who wasn’t objectively good-looking, but he was so nice, funny, and engaging that every one of us agreed he was highly attractive. Who you are impacts how you appear to those around you, especially your husband. If you’re a happy wife who fights the frump and makes him feel loved, odds are you’re hot in his heart.

Confidence is appealing. Let me be frank, ladies: Wives who constantly complain about their appearance, demand heaps of reassurance, and argue with their husband’s opinion can wear a guy out. Wives who own their beauty, present themselves with confidence, and yes, ask for reassurance when they need it are more appealing. Of course, you won’t immediately flip a switch and have a shot of confidence wash over you. You must intentionally work toward dealing with your self-consciousness, self-doubt, self-flagellation to become more comfortable with your body and your beauty.

Back to my height-challenged existence…

I used to think that my husband got cheated by not getting the tall woman he, I assumed, wanted. I wished God would grant me a belated wish, a medical miracle, and make me grow a few more inches.

But honestly, I’ve learned that my husband doesn’t see it that way. And I no longer view myself negatively either. For him, it’s just a little bending to kiss the woman he loves, a slight adjustment for us to dance in tandem, and appreciation of a physical characteristic that defines me. Even as my body changes – spreading a bit in the middle – he’s in love with the woman he sees, knows, touches, chose.

And why wouldn’t he feel that way? I feel that about him. My husband is not objectively as physically attractive as he was twenty years ago, but to me, he’s absolutely the best looking guy in every room I enter. He’s my type and I’m his type, because our love for each other means: “You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you” (Song of Songs 4:7).

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What I Thought About Swimsuits in 1993

I’m a magnet for clutter. Paperwork seeks me out like a missile locating its target. On any given day, I feel that I must apologize for the state of my desk. And let’s not even discuss how badly I need to go through my files.

But as I was (finally) attacking some of the clutter, I came upon a couple of notebook pages of a journal-like entry dated May 1993. I was shocked to find I’d written almost 300 words about body image, modesty, and swimsuits. I decided to share it [with minor editing] here.

What I Thought About Swimsuits in 1993

I struggle with the fashion industry’s view of what clothes are to do. I thought clothes were to cover and enhance. Try shopping for a swimsuit with that in mind. Most swimsuits either look like they should be worn by your grandmother or a Sports Illustrated model.

So forget the grandma thing.

Everything else unveils rather than covers. I’d be afraid to jump into the water for fear that I’ll lose my modesty to the nearest wave.

Modesty is not big in the fashion industry. Suppose I wear an itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny bikini. Does this actually enhance? I will now have to shave my “bikini area,” which always brings on a painful red rash hanging past my immodest bikini bottoms for all to see. I guess I could opt for electrolysis…yeah, right! Who said beauty was worth that kind of pain?! Who said a naked bikini area equals beauty?

Let’s go back to the modesty thing. Even if I solve the bikini area dilemma, I’m stuck with the constant game of tug and pull. I take a couple of laps in the pool, and as I’m leaving I’m pulling down the back of those bottoms, the bottom of my top, and up on the top of my bottoms. Makes you not even want to enter the pool.

If some other woman wishes to inflict self-torture, fine. But I quarrel with the fashion industry for not offering options.

I want swim shorts, like men. Speedos have been on the market for years, but most men opt for trunks. They won’t fall for that skimpy look thing. They demand comfort. Women demand tug and pull.

Well, they have swim shorts now. And swim skirts. Maybe someone in the fashion industry actually paid attention to what some of us wanted.

However, I still see the majority of women’s swimsuit departments inundated with swimsuits that neither cover nor enhance. Thankfully, I’ve learned a thing or two about shopping for swimsuits. Since it’s mid-June — and absolutely beach weather where I live — I wanted to once again share what I’ve written about modesty and swimsuit shopping:

What Does Modesty Look Like?

6 Questions to Ask about Your Swimsuit

Swimsuit Shopping (without Weeping and Wailing)

What about you? How do you approach modesty and swimsuits? Have you found a good solution? And has your opinion changed since 1993?

The Real Beauty We Reflect with J. Parker

For the last four months, we’ve been hearing from some fabulous blogger wives who have weighed in on feeling beautiful. Not just knowing logically that God made us to be beautiful, but embracing our own unique beauty.

The Real Beauty We Reflect with J. Parker

But it’s Christmas Eve, and for those who celebrate Christmas, the coming of Jesus is forefront on our minds. Isaiah 53 is one of the clearest Old Testament prophecies about the coming Messiah. Early on, it has this to say about Jesus Christ:

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this verse and what it means for our sense of beauty. Because what I take away is there was no physical reason for anyone to be attracted to Christ. Unlike his the first of his earthly royal line, King David, we have no indication in scripture that Jesus’ appearance was even worth mentioning.

Yet people were drawn to him. Disciples left their homes for him. Followers were persecuted for him. Missionaries endured torture for him. Christians throughout centuries have looked upon Christ and seen a beauty unlike any other — and they have sacrificed their lives in so many ways for him.

Something deeper and more eternal about Jesus left its imprint.

I think you have something deeper and more eternal about you as well — something your husband is drawn to that goes beyond your physical beauty.

While I believe that we should take care of our bodies, expend some effort on our appearance, believe in our beauty, and work on our attitude of self-confidence, when it comes down to it, my husband doesn’t love me because I’m beautiful. He appreciates my beauty, but he’s most attracted to me when I reflect Jesus Christ’s beauty, when I am the woman God created me to be.

And we all display God’s beauty as His creation. When we lean into our deeper beauty, we become even more attractive. Never discount your beauty — regardless of what you look like. You are God’s beloved masterpiece.

And look for that beauty in others. Let’s even rethink how we define beauty. To help you understand what I mean, take a look at this compelling video:

Don’t tell me those people aren’t absolutely beautiful. To me, they are God’s gorgeous children.

I don’t care what you look like, you have beauty given to by the Creator. You are the daughter of the King of Kings, beautiful wife. Live into your beauty, and let your husband appreciate both your outside appearance and your inner loveliness.

In this season we celebrate Christ, let’s learn to reflect His beauty.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Note: I will be on hiatus for the next week, spending time with my family. See you in 2016!

4 Ways to Feel Beautiful…When You’re Not Really Feeling It with Jolene Engle

Jolene Engle of Christian Wife University is among my favorite gals on the web. She speaks honestly and biblically about issues wives face. Her website Christian Wife University is filled with great advice for marriage.

And I was privileged to participate in her amazing online conference, Wisdom for Wives, in which I got to talk about my favorite topic — marital intimacy.

Once again, Jolene gets real with her readers in today’s post about feeling beautiful. You’ll recognize the honesty of a wife who struggles like so many of us do, but also her godly response to those self-image concerns. I pray Jolene’s post uplifts you as it did me.

4 Ways to Feel Beautiful...When You're Not Really Feeling It with Jolene Engle

Any person in their right mind would think that what I’m about to share on the topic of feeling beautiful actually feels beautiful. But I don’t.

When I look in the mirror, I cringe.

When J invited me to guest post on this series of Feel Beautiful, I cringed.

Over the months as I’ve thought about writing this post, I’ve cringed.

As I’ve sat down to type out this post, I’ve cringed.

I’ve always had a distorted view of my outer appearance. Even when I weighed 112 lbs. standing at 5’7″.

Now I weigh more. Much more after giving birth to two kiddos, and I don’t mean yesterday. My sons are 14 and 16 years old, and for the life of me I still can’t get the weight off after all of these years. Insert: feels like a failure after all these years.

Just the other day my family and I were looking at old photos of the four of us. My husband remarked that he looks the same in all of them. I had a bout of discouragement that ran through my soul because it was quite evident that I did not look same.

He was growing old graciously and I was just… growing old. My waist is thicker and my hair is thinner.

When I look at those old photos, I cringe.

So, what on earth can someone like me who struggles with her outer appearance tell you about feeling beautiful when the majority of the time I do not?

Well, I do a few things so I’m not constantly consumed and drowning in my vanity sorrows and perhaps what I share will help you?

4 Ways to Feel Beautiful…when you’re not really feeling it

1. Define Who You Worship.

I fight to not make my outer appearance an idol in my life. When I want to hide myself from the world because I do not like how I look, I have a choice. I can either worship me (my insecurities) or worship the Lord and allow Him to use me to minister to others. This requires me to get out of the house so others will actually see me. And the idea of me taping and shooting more videos on YouTube, yeah, well that is never on the top of my to-do list.

But here’s the thing. I worship Jesus Christ. I bend my knee to Him, and when He calls me to share a message for the whole world to see, well, I want to please Him. I’m just hoping He won’t be calling me to get on Periscope anytime soon because that tool is like a video selfie! In my mind, I’m not even attractive enough for videos that I edit let alone videos of me in their rawest form!

2. Change What You Can.

A few weeks back I went to get my hair done. Afterwards, I felt like a million bucks just because I had a more flattering style to work with and my gray locks were now brown. Did I look like some hot beauty in her 20s? Nope. I looked like a woman who is in her 40s because that’s who I am. But a little change or effort in my outer appearance makes me feel beautiful.

Oh, and I don’t step in front of mirrors all too much anymore. I get dressed. Do my makeup and then I’m off to build God’s kingdom. Later in the day I might come across a mirror and I’m taken aback by what I see. I can’t help but think to myself, “Is that how I really look?” Disappointment creeps right back into my heart when this takes place, so I avoid it.

I also avoid the scale. Putting on a pair of pants that are snugger than usual is the indicator for me to cut back on my calories and exercise a bit more. I don’t need some object with numbers on it defining my self-worth.

3. Give Yourself Grace.

Accepting myself as I age is something that I wrestle with on a daily basis. Sure, I exercise on a weekly basis and I try to eat healthy and watch what I eat, but hormones and aging have changed my body. Therefore, I need to grant myself grace and so do you.

4. Accept the Compliment.

My husband will tell me I look beautiful, and most, if not all of the time, I don’t really believe he means it. Shame on me. I need to learn to accept his words and God’s words as truth rather than my words.

God has not called me to be a supermodel. He has called me to model Him. Whether I’m wearing yoga pants while I’m cleaning my house or getting all dolled up for a date with my man, what matters most is my heart. Does it reflect Jesus Christ?

People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7 NIV

So what are the few things you do to feel beautiful? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Live a poured out life for Christ,

Jolene Engle

And yeah, don’t be fooled by the picture below. I don’t have that much hair anymore. This shot of me was taken a few years old. Taking a new one would require me to get in front of the camera. Again. And with that thought, I cringe.

Jolene Engle

Jolene was once an atheist who is now sold-out for Jesus Christ. Her heart beats fast for discipling women and you’ll find her doing just that at JoleneEngle.com. She is also the founder of Christian Wife University where she helps wives connect the dots from their reality to the Christ-centered marriage they long for and the one God intended. She is also the author of the book and bible study, Wives of the Bible.