Category Archives: Marriage Blogging

Hurricane Harvey & Me

In case you hadn’t heard, there’s a big hurricane in South Texas. Hurricane Harvey barreled through Rockport, just north of my hometown of Corpus Christi, and is hovering inland and dumping buckets and buckets of rain.

I’m in the Houston area, on the Galveston side. In the last 24 hours, my town has had somewhere around 15 inches of rain dumped on it. And it’s still raining pretty hard.

Hurricane Harvey radar snapshot

Pic from spacecityweather.com, a great resource for Houston weather

Let me assure readers that I and my family are fine. We happen to live on a street that has never flooded, not even in Tropical Storm Allison (the last storm here responsible for major flooding), and the water puddles in my yard are nowhere near our house.

However, I do have friends impacted, and I ask that you pray for them. Additionally, I need to let y’all know that I might be back up and running on schedule this week. Or I might not.

Because more rain and power outages are expected. We currently don’t have internet, so I’m posting this through my phone’s mobile hotspot. And most importantly to us, we may need to turn our attention to opening up our home to any friends and family who are affected by flooding.

Stay safe wherever you are. I’ll be back as soon as I can — tomorrow, I hope — but in the meantime, I’m praying that God carries you and your marriage through the storms of life and you find calm and happiness.

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;

Isaiah 43:2a, 3a

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?

Setting the Right Priorities in Your Marriage (and Your Life)

Pencil marking off list items + blog title

If you follow my blog regularly, you might have wondered if I’d fallen off the face of the earth. After all, the last time I put up a post was over two weeks ago.

You really don’t want to hear the whole story, but suffice it to say that I had three massive projects that all ended up with deadlines in those two weeks. And in the middle of that, I hosted my lovely friend and fellow podcaster, Bonny Burns of OysterBed7, and we attended the Authentic Intimacy Conference in San Antonio (with Dr. Juli Slattery).

J. Parker and Bonny Burns at the Authentic Intimacy Conference

One of those projects caught me by surprise, and a second one ended up being far more work than I’d anticipated, so I hadn’t planned well for this disruptions to my schedule. Sounds like life, eh?

But whether you’re in the midst of an overwhelming workload or a season of struggle or others needing your ever-so-precious time, you have to make choices. How do you set the right priorities?

When I ended up with a few minutes to spare, I didn’t blog here. I could have, but instead I offered to snuggle up with my husband on the couch and watch a show or go out to eat dinner with the family. I called back the friend who’d been unable to get a hold of me and asked how things were going with her. I chatted with my sister and my son on the phone. I went to church, worshiped with fellow believers, and attended Bible class. I headed to the grocery store, did laundry, made a cup of tea for myself and my hubby.

Each and every day, we’re faced with choices on how to use our time, our resources, our effort. People talk a lot about proper priorities, but how many of us are really living according to the ones we think we should have?

Each and every day, we're faced with choices on how to use our time, our resources, our effort. Click To Tweet

Most of the time, this blog is a high priority for me. I am passionate about passion, I care about your marriages, and I believe God has tasked me to do this ministry.

But these past two weeks, what I seemed to be hearing from Him instead was to not worry so much about the blog and attend to my marriage and my daily life. It’s not that Hot, Holy & Humorous doesn’t matter — I certainly believe it does! — but J. Parker herself isn’t necessary for anyone’s salvation or marital health. That’s God’s job, and I’m just here trying to do my part.

Where I am necessary is as a wife to my husband, a mother to my sons, a member of my church, and a friend to those with whom I’m close.

What about you? Have you really thought about how someone else could teach that Bible class or take a meal to another family? How if you didn’t redecorate the living room, life would be okay? How you could skip out on a social event or even a business meeting, and people would cope?

But if you skip out on your marriage, won’t there be real consequences? If you don’t prioritize your relationship with God, how will you suffer? If you aren’t there for your family, what will be missing in their lives (and yours)?

Likewise, I come here all the time saying that you can’t skip out on the sexual intimacy in your marriage and expect to have a good marriage. Sex isn’t the icing on the cake; it’s an important ingredient in the cake. But have you made it a priority?

You might suspect that within those two weeks, despite all the busyness, my husband and I did not deprive each other (see 1 Corinthians 7:3-5). Because I believe in the importance of sex to our marriage, and I’ve seen that this special intimacy brings us closer in other ways.

I will return on Thursday, hopefully right back on schedule from here on out. But while I missed you all, I don’t regret choosing the priorities I chose. Because honestly, what kind of marriage blogger would I be anyway if I neglected my own marriage and family to write another post that you can live two weeks without?

Stop Competing & Envying (and a Bit of a Rant)

Saturday is the day I share a Bible verse passage that we can apply to our marriages. I’ve been encouraging y’all, as well as myself, to memorize more scripture and apply it to our daily lives.

Today, I have a scripture to share for your marriage, but it’s also part of a plea I want to make to my commenters. Here it goes:

“Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:26, NRSV).

Stop Competing & Envying: Galatians 5:26

Merriam-Webster defines conceited as “having or showing an excessively high opinion of oneself.” And let’s face it, we’re all prone to being self-centered. We see our day, our community, our universe in terms of how everything affects us.

We also see our marriages in terms of how we’re getting our own needs met. It’s our set-point that we have to reach beyond, learning how to love as Christ did — with a humble, other-focused, sacrificial love.

That’s not to say we let ourselves be doormats. By no means! But we should look at our marriages in terms of how we are doing, not just me.

We should look at our marriages in terms of how we are doing, not just me. Click To Tweet

Yet I see so many spouses doing what this scripture says not to do: competing against each other and envying one another. How? We constantly complain that we are the ones being mistreated in our marriage, that our spouse has it better than we do, that we are victims while they are villains.

I’ve done it in the past. I have years of prior marital unhappiness to demonstrate what a bad idea that is. At the height of my troubled marriage, I’d have said that I was the spouse who suffered the greater hardship. But now, with a clearer perspective, I recognize how deeply my husband was hurting. Back then, I discounted his pain because I was so focused on mine.

I wish I could do that over again. But I can’t. All I can do is remember what I’ve learned and share it with you: It doesn’t matter who has it worse. You’re one-flesh now, so if one of you is hurting, both of you are hurting.

You're one-flesh now, so if one of you is hurting, both of you are hurting. #marriage Click To Tweet

For example, if your spouse isn’t giving you the sex you should get, you’re missing what God desires you to have. But — whether they understand or not — your wife or husband is missing that too. If your spouse is watching porn, you’re being denied the exclusivity of sexual focus you should have in marriage. But your porn-addicted spouse is being injured as well. As a pastor I know often said, a self-inflicted wound still hurts.

People all around us are hurting, including our spouses, in ways we don’t understand. And one spouse being worse off, whoever it is, affects the whole. A good marriage isn’t preoccupied with being conceited, envying, or competing.

Nor should our lives reflect that attitude …

There have been several comments lately in which readers want to argue the point of my post by essentially saying, “Yeah, what you describe is bad, but isn’t my situation way, way worse?”

Honestly, it’s often not worse. And even if it is, how does it help you to compete against others and envy their presumably better situation? For the love of God, can I please get across how destructive this attitude can be! That way madness lies! (King Lear)

You can get so caught up justifying the comparisons, the competition, the envy that you waste precious time and effort that could be spent on changing what really matters. You could be working on yourself, becoming the person God wants you to be. You’re far more likely to see positive outcomes by moving away from selfishness and into humility, as modeled by Jesus Christ, and working on your own issues.

Truth is, I’ve gotten caught up with you, arguing a point far too long — back and forth, back and forth — in an effort to get through. Frankly, wasting time that could be better spent writing and speaking about godly sexual intimacy in marriage. This past week, God reminded me that is mission.

Thus, my Comments Policy might be getting an addition soon — something about how discussions of I have it bad … no, I have it worse … no, I have it way worse are fruitless and destructive. Because by allowing those conversations to continue ad infinitum, I feel like I’m enabling what this verse says not to do. When all our time would be better spent in prayer with God, in conversation with our spouse, or in flat-out fixing ourselves.

Yes, I know some of my readers have been through hell and back, and I do not take that lightly. I want this blog to be a place where we can share our real struggles and find compassion, encouragement, and answers. Such comments will be approved, and we can hopefully hammer out some ideas on how to help you where you are.

But those who want to set up imaginary scenarios, use bad statistics, or give a detailed account of their own woe-is-me moments so that they feel justified calling themselves victims, I don’t see the benefit of that. As we look across the world or across history, we always find someone who has it better. And someone who has it worse. The comparisons don’t change where we are or what we need to do to embrace a better life — the beauty God has stored for us.

Let’s stop competing and envying. Let’s fix our eyes on Jesus. And let’s pursue health, holiness, and happiness in our own lives and for those in our sphere of influence.

november-giveaway

When I Went from Anonymity to Transparency

The Christian Marriage Bloggers Association, of which I’m a member, has a monthly blog challenge from time to time. For the month of October, the challenge is to write a post related to a specific picture:

cmba-blog-challenge-pic-october-2016

Isn’t that beautiful? The photo was taken by Kate Aldrich Photography. Kate and her husband Brad are also members of CMBA and blog at One Flesh Marriage.

Looking at that picture, I considered several possible topics: the exclusivity of marriage,  private moments between husband and wife, the importance of flirting, the lyrics to “Singin’ in the Rain”… But what kept coming back to me is that photo represents who my husband and I were for about three years on this blog.

When I began writing Hot, Holy & Humorous in December 2010, I was anonymous. Just “J.” No last name, no picture, no identifiers about where I lived, no information about my kids. I had several reasons for starting out this way. Among them:

♦  My kids were young, and — while I was talking to them about sex in age-appropriate ways — I didn’t want my writing about sex to come back around to them in any way. I wasn’t sure how this ministry would go, and I thought if others knew I was writing about sex, it could be mentioned in front of my kids in awkward ways. My kids were a priority.

♦  My family and friends didn’t know the whole story. Since I was sharing pretty freely on my blog about my personal testimony, I didn’t know whether such information could get back to them. And I wasn’t ready to share how much I’d screwed up before marriage or how hard my marriage had been in the past.

♦  It gave me the freedom to talk more openly. At least that’s how I felt at the time — that not having to reveal exactly who I was allowed me to reveal a lot of why and how I was. That is, I could talk about why I thought sexual intimacy was so important, why wives needed to figure out this aspect of their marriage, how we can pursue God’s better design, and exactly how to make love (that is, specific tips).

♦  It gave me the freedom to fail. I didn’t think about this consciously, but looking back my choice to write anonymously allowed me to risk more. Not having my name and face attached to the website meant that, if the whole idea crashed and burned, I could quietly fold and walk away. But that also meant I might as well give it my all and see what happened, because my name wasn’t on it anyway.

At some point, these issues resolved. So I ripped off the anonymity mask and revealed me.

And some odd things happened. Odd things with great takeaways.

♦  Not only did friends and family not disapprove of me writing about sex, they supported me. There was a “good for you” attitude as people found out.

Indeed, one of the best takeaways has been that the older churchgoers, whom I looked up to and expected would judge me harshly for talking so openly about something considered too private in their generation to discuss … yeah, they’re the most supportive. I kid you not. The “little old ladies” I come across will grab my arm and say how proud they are of me. They’ve been around long enough to have heard just about everything, and they have the wisdom to recognize the importance of sex in marriage and the need for a biblical perspective.

Perhaps you speaking up about sex would be welcomed. Yes, there are naysayers. There always are. But what if you championed the need for godly sex discussions in your church? The response might be more positive than you anticipated.

You don’t have to talk about sex as much as I do or reveal anything personal. You could simply offer to lead a small group study based on Intimacy Revealed, bring Sheila Gregoire’s Girl Talk to your church, or facilitate an Awaken-Love video class. You might discover, as I did, that people recognize the need and are glad someone is speaking up.

♦  My transparency beget others’ transparency. Once people knew I had spoken up about this subject, they spoke up too. People became more open with me about their own struggles, or people they knew who were struggling, or their own testimonies of how God worked in this area of their lives. I even received questions about particular situations and was happy to be a resource for those I know and love.

Putting myself out there freed others to do the same. There was this sense of relief that we could just be honest and say, “This sex stuff isn’t always easy.” But my story and my ministry conveyed that there are answers. And that was a hopeful message.

Maybe being transparent would help others become transparent too. It’s quite possible we’ve manufactured this worry that we’ll be left dangling out there alone if we tell our story. As if revealing something personal about ourselves will make the whole room of fellow believers shut down.

Yet admitting where we struggle, and sharing our stories of coming through hardship to victory, often opens up hearts and minds. Ephesians 4:25 says, “So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another” (NRSV). We might end up paving the way for more honesty in our churches and friendships. And from there, help one another to become more godly in our lives and our marriages.

♦  I got to interact more with my readers. Once I revealed myself, I got to reveal even more about myself. I posted pictures on Facebook, shared specific things going on in my life, and felt a greater sense of community with Hot, Holy & Humorous followers.

I’ve always believed in the importance of community to one’s individual faith. Yes, I know some churches have damaged their members in various ways (and if you’ve had that kind of experience, I’m so sorry). However, we were never meant to walk this journey alone. From the moment God said to Adam, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18), to the angel declaring, “I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus,” in Revelation 2:10, it’s clear we are supposed to be walking in faith with others. We should seek out encouragement and opportunities to serve fellow believers.

Opening yourself up can build a community of faith. Too often, people in churches are privately hurting, feel that no one cares, and eventually duck out the door — with disappointment or even despair that others were not there for them. But when churches I’ve attended knew what was going on, most truly wanted to help. Indeed, if you share with one person and their response is not helpful, go to someone else. Seek out fellow Christians who walk alongside you and support you in your faith and your marriage.

We’re called to “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). So share your joys and your sorrows. Be open, and let others be open with you. Every best friend I have is someone I can talk to about matters of faith, and they are for me, for my marriage, for my relationship with God. I’m thrilled that so many of my readers take that same approach toward me — as I do with them.

How transparent are you with fellow believers? What positive effects does transparency have among Christians?