Category Archives: Body Image

Do Our Yoga Pants Make Men Sin?

Let’s talk about modesty. Wait, wait…don’t run away! I know you’ve already read about this subject, probably many times over, and I saw you flinch when I brought it up. But I want to get real about modesty. In fact, I might even rant a little. So read on.

Title with 5 pairs of yoga pants

Modesty is an ongoing issue in our culture. In case you hadn’t noticed, a lot of women out there show off a lot of their bodies. In today’s world, guys don’t have to step too far out of their house to see images or real women with curves, cleavage, “camel feet,” and cutaneous membrane (aka skin). Given how visual many men are, it can be a struggle for many of them to keep their thoughts entirely pure.

I feel for them. And so, I’ve talked to wives about modesty in the past — how we need to choose stylish clothing that covers enough, the care we should take in choosing swimsuits, even my own practice of sometimes asking my husband when I put something on, “Is this okay?” (I learned years ago that he’s a better barometer for whether a miniskirt is short enough to attract male attention I’m not looking for.) We certainly don’t want to contribute to the temptation for men to lust.

I’ve also been frustrated with women who don’t get it. Like how I was once going through a church potluck line and caught a not-so-brief glimpse of the woman in front of me with her thong peeking out of a low-rise miniskirt. Thank goodness my husband or teenage sons weren’t in line behind her! I don’t want my sons or my husband to have such information waved in front of their faces.

1 Timothy 2:9-10 says: “Also, the women are to dress themselves in modest clothing, with decency and good sense, not with elaborate hairstyles, gold, pearls, or expensive apparel, but with good works, as is proper for women who affirm that they worship God” (HCSB, emphasis added). Women should be modest, for the sake of the men in their midst and to honor God’s will.

Women should be modest, for the sake of the men in their midst and to honor God’s will. Click To Tweet

However … not too long ago, I was reading a post that mentioned modesty and some blessed wife had as part of her comments something like, “But please don’t take my yoga pants. You have no idea how nice it is to be in something comfortable …” (I wish I could find that comment!) I laughed and found myself agreeing. I often wear yoga pants and a T-shirt while working at home and doing laundry. And then, I need to run out to the store. So am I supposed to change from yoga pants, even when my shirt covers almost the whole backside? Seems a bit silly to me.

And yet you can find entire articles castigating women for wearing yoga pants. In another post written to women about modesty, two men in the comments said they’d basically been visually assaulted by women wearing yoga pants in their presence. Really? Is the prevalence of yoga pants the downfall of otherwise good Christian husbands?

Job 31:1 says, “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman.” And I fully appreciate men who take this covenant to heart. Many Christian husbands are dedicated to keeping their minds pure and avoiding visual temptation.

But my thinking about modesty and lust is changing. Partly because I see so much blame placed on women for men lusting. I’m not letting us women off the hook for needing to use decency and good sense when we go out in public. However, I don’t see men getting the same flack for how they present themselves in public. If you want to see what I mean, read this humorous post on “When Suits Become a Stumbling Block: A Plea to My Brothers in Christ.” Men in suits are attractive. So are men in uniforms. I mean really, how could any man proclaim to be a holy Christian if he’s also a well-built firefighter in uniform? Don’t you know what you’re doing to us?!

We’ve also preached this modesty message so much to teens that some of them probably think Psalm 119:9 reads: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By ‘bouncing his eyes.'” No, no, no. It says: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping Your word.”

What does the Word of God say about modesty?

In addition to the verses referenced above, not a whole lot. Here’s a quick run-down:

The Lord says,
‘The women of Zion are haughty,
walking along with outstretched necks,
flirting with their eyes,
strutting along with swaying hips,
with ornaments jingling on their ankles
.’”

(Isaiah 3:16; and verses 17-24 explains you how God will punish those women)

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes” (1 Peter 3:3).

And that’s it. At least specifically regarding modest apparel. Of course, there are principles of modest and God-honoring behaviors. We also have scriptures that talk about not being a stumbling block to others, about building up our brothers and sisters in Christ, about living with reverence before God. Obviously, if you’re walking around in low-rise shorts with your bum hanging out, that’s not exactly an advertisement for Christianity. (And, by the way, you’re essentially wearing your underwear in public; they might be expensive denim, but you’re in undies. Stop that.)

But you know what else the Bible says? It says to treat people with respect, to look beyond their appearance and see them how God sees them, to purify our minds and our hearts in Christ Jesus.

And I’ve become really bothered by the idea that men are just bouncing their eyes off every woman who shows a little more cleavage than they want to see or who ran up to the grocery store on the fly in her yoga pants to grab much-needed diapers for her infant. Doesn’t that pigeonhole women’s bodies as temptation? As if “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13) is referring to women’s curves or yoga pants. Doesn’t that approach have the potential of objectifying women as well?

Rather, how did Jesus treat women who were immodest in their lives? Jesus let a sinful woman anoint his feet with oil and spoke directly to her to forgive her sins (Luke 7:36-50). He had a direct conversation about faith with the Samaritan woman who’d been married five times and living with a man outside of marriage (John 4:1-26). He refused to condemn a woman caught in adultery and encouraged her to stop sinning (John 8:1-11). Jesus looked past their immodesty and saw the woman His Father saw.

Which makes me think that maybe we’re missing something.

Maybe the problem is only partly what someone’s wearing and more what our hearts are doing. Is the test whether we can look at each other as sex objects or whether we can see the person underneath?

Maybe the problem is only partly what someone’s wearing & more what our hearts are doing. Click To Tweet

This is by no means meant to let women, and men, off the hook for dressing modestly. But you how about we hear a little about how men dress and behave in public? And how about taking responsibility for our own thoughts and hearts?

If you can’t have a conversation with a woman who shows too much cleavage or a guy in your gym who’s muscled and shirtless, you’re going to have a really, really, really hard time in this world. And it’s not entirely the world’s fault.

We have to own our responsibility to not lust. And if it’s hard? Well, being a Christian isn’t supposed to be eating-cupcakes-easy all the time. (What did you think that verse about taking up your cross meant? Matthew 16:24.)

We have to own our responsibility to not lust. Click To Tweet

As for me, you might see in my yoga pants at the grocery store. Not because I’m wanting any guy to get a full-view of my caboose, but because they’re comfortable and I was too lazy to change. However, I will make sure I’m wearing a long T-shirt to cover everything that should be covered. And if I have any doubts about how I might come across, I check with my husband, because he has a better sense of those things at times.

I suspect plenty of other women, good Christian wives even, will be dressed in exercise or lounge attire as well. And we hope you can still have a nice conversation with us. Because that is nothing like the immodesty of the women Jesus dealt with, and He managed to handle it all just fine.

We believe in you guys. We don’t want to tempt you, but we also believe that — with God’s help — you can keep your minds and hearts where they should be.

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!