Monthly Archives: July 2015

Why I Was Gone in July…and Why You Should Be Here in August

The month of July has been, as they say, cray-cray. (Translation: crazy.)

Long story short, I had three weeks eaten up with preparing for events, traveling to/from events, attending events, and recovering from events — those events being a week-long Christian youth camp and a massive writers’ conference in New York City. It didn’t help that I expected to have access to WiFi at church camp and ended up with about an hour of Internet all week long. Being out of touch makes me a little antsy, and I hate not tending regularly to my email and blog.

However, I also learned that I need to let myself have some vacation time too. After my events were finished, hubby and I did a little sightseeing in the Big Apple and enjoyed some wonderful couple time together.

Hanging out by the Empire State Bldg and in the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Hanging out by the Empire State Bldg and in the Metropolitan Museum of Art

I’m done traveling for a while, and I feel terribly behind. But while my to-do list is full, my calendar is open for the next month — meaning it’s a great time to catch up.

So I’ll be catching up here on Hot, Holy & Humorous with a super-special feature — something I’ve never done before: A full month of blogging in August.

That’s right! Throughout August, I’ll be focused on my Summer of Q&A with J. Each weekday in August, I’ll post a reader question and my response. Then on Saturdays, I’ll feature a round-up and a check-in for what else is going on at HHH, as well as a giveaway of one of my books! I’ll start this Saturday, August 1, with a giveaway to one lucky reader of any of my three books in ebook format: your choice. Just watch for that post and instructions on how to enter.

That’s six days of blogging each week, people! Hope you’ll stick with me as we approach the last days of summer and address sex and marriage according to God’s design. See y’all starting tomorrow!

In the meantime…

What couple vacations have you taken this summer? What do you get from spending extended time away from home with your spouse?

Q&A with J: Can Sex Be Used as Comfort? Yes, But…

I’m back again for another installment of the Summer of Q&A with J. Here’s today’s question sent to me from a husband. He describes a conflict he had with his wife:

I have been giving a lot of thought to a recent disagreement on sexual intimacy. We had been through some tough things over the prior week, and one night I said how much I wanted to make love and feel her in my arms and forget the world for a while. And she got upset with me. Really upset.

At issue was the idea of using sexual intimacy as “comfort.” She was adamant that sex should not be used as “comfort” at all, ever, and felt that my request was inappropriate.

My question is this: Is it ok to consider sexual intimacy as a “comfort” in a marriage? When would it be appropriate? When would it be inappropriate, when would it be “using” rather than “sharing”?

Can Sex Be Used As Comfort? Yes, But...

Let me point this reader and others to a post I wrote on 4 Ways Sex Can Comfort in Crisis or Grief. Specifically, consider these verses from the Bible:

“Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and he went to her and made love to her” (2 Samuel 12:24a).

“Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death” (Genesis 24:67).

Thus, my answer is an unequivocal yes — sexual intimacy can absolutely be comforting in marriage. I’ve certainly experienced it myself.

HOWEVER, before you all bring out your thick Bibles to thump your spouses, the issue is more than who is right or wrong. I’m rather curious what the wife thinks sex is for — what are her “appropriate” reasons to engage in sex in marriage.

Some wives who don’t engage in sex frequently in marriage don’t feel listened to and valued, so here’s an opportunity to demonstrate you care about her thoughts and feelings. Ask what she thinks about sex: What purpose does it serve in marriage? Why did God include create it the way He did? Why is there an entire book about marriage and sex in the Bible (Song of Songs)?

Now don’t corner the poor girl and drill her like you’re the hard-nosed detective in the last cop show you saw. In The DNA of Relationships, marriage researcher and author Gary Smalley talks about how we draw close and open up to others when we feel “safe.” He defines as a safe environment as “no one has to worry about being shamed or rejected or punished or attacked for stating personal beliefs and feelings.” Then he notes, “In a place like that, heartfelt communication can bloom and grow.” Ask open-ended questions, invite conversation, and affirm your wife. Listen and rephrase what she says to make sure you understand where she’s coming from.

It’s perfectly fine for you to feel sex is comforting; it’s obviously in the Bible. What’s at question here seems to be her view of sex altogether. Who knows what beliefs about sex she’s learned or ingrained over the years? Some of us have loads of sexual baggage or received negative messages about sex.

When a big disagreement breaks out over something seemingly innocuous, that’s a red flag that you have hit a sore spot. Instead of digging in your heels further, as we are all tempted to do when we’re right, it could be a time to tread lightly and make extra effort to create that safe environment.

By the way, you won’t be able to do this on your own. That’s my heartfelt, been-there-tried-that opinion. I cannot achieve this kind of extravagant love in my own strength. Because yeah, when your spouse fires back at you, you’re wounded and the last thing you want to do is to put aside your pain and minister to your spouse.

Still, that’s what we’re called to do. Extra prayer is warranted. James 1:5 says: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” You’ll need wise words, so ask for them. I also like finding verses that remind me of the kind of person I want to be in that circumstance and try to memorize them. For instance, I wish every married person had 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 memorized, so they could recall to mind what agape love really looks like. But if you’re struggling specifically with compassion or patience or gentleness, find those scriptures and arm yourself accordingly.

In summary:

  1. You’re right: Sex can definitely be comfort in marriage.
  2. Being right isn’t the same as being good: Be careful how you approach your spouse when you’re right and they aren’t there yet.
  3. Foster a safe environment: Better conversation and problem-solving will happen when you both feel safe to express your thoughts and emotions, whether they make sense to your spouse or not.
  4. Ask for God’s help: No one has the power to love perfectly at all times — no one but God — so ask for His help as you work through sexual issues in your marriage.

What do you think about sex as comfort? Have you faced similar conflicts in your marriage? What advice would you give?

Feeling Beautiful: 8 Things I Learned While Shopping

Something you probably don’t know about me: I love cowboy boots. Like seriously love them. Not as much as I love God, my husband, and my children, but they’re right up there with beach days and cream gravy. And yeah, I’m a Southern gal.

I haven’t even worn cowboy boots my whole life; just the last few years. But they are so comfortable on my feet that I wear them with everything I can, including dresses. A few of those dresses I’ve worn so much, they were getting tattered. What’s a Southern gal to do? Go shopping, of course!

Feeling Beautiful: 8 Things I Learned While Shopping via Hot, Holy & Humorous

So I spent two days over the July Fourth weekend clothes shopping in my area. Rather than give you a play-by-play of my excursion, simply imagine a horror film with you shouting at the screen, “Don’t go in there, girlfriend! It’s dangerous!” Only instead of a dark basement with a serial killer inside, my threat was the dressing room with poor self-image lurking.

In the course of those two days, I looked through scads and scads of dresses and tried on over 50 items. Oh yeah, 50. How many did I buy? A whopping four, and one of those was a clearance T-shirt bought on a whim.

Why was it so difficult? Because my body sucks!

No, no, that’s not the reason. Yet I had several moments when self-doubt crept up and settled in my bones. “I hate my stomach.” “I look pudgy in this.” “My butt is flat.” “Have I always had all this arm fat?”

After Day One of 32 items tried on and zero purchased, I returned home and fell into a funk. I’m not proud, but there may have even been thoughts of buying a tube of Pillsbury chocolate chip cooking dough, grabbing a large spoon, and drowning my discouragement in sugar and chocolate.

However, I did not succumb!

In fact, I’m a few days out from that whole experience, and I want to share what I learned:

1. I continue to struggle with feeling beautiful at times. I still have my moments of frustrations with my body, struggling with getting older, and not appreciating the masterpiece God made me to be. I’m not perfected on this point.

2. Those times are fewer and shorter-lived than before. Since actively trying to feel beautiful, I’ve done better. I recently listened to a sermon by James MacDonald of Harvest Bible Chapel, and he noted we often think of changing as a steady decrease of our brokenness; however, the truth is we usually struggle with the same things as before, but as intentional Christians they become less frequent and shorter-lived. We recognize our moments of struggle more quickly and respond better with godly answers. I see that in my own life.

3. The scriptures I’ve memorized come to mind when I need them. When I slipped into my body-image blues, Psalm 139:14 came to mind: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” And principles I’ve learned about God’s love, His provision, His care for me were all present in my heart, keeping me from staying too long in that bad place.

4. My husband helps me feel beautiful. Hubby was with me on Day One (that trooper!), and we made love that night. He doesn’t care that my tummy isn’t getting fitness awards or that my body isn’t as young as it once was. He simply sees the woman he loves, God bless that man.

5. Fashion designers don’t always “get” real women. Or maybe rarely get real women. We ladies commonly complain that we don’t know who they’re designing clothes for, because it isn’t for our bodies. So why did I expect it to be easy? That said, it is possible to find clothes that fit and flatter you.

6. Learn what looks good and stick with that. It took me many tries, but by the end of the weekend I had some things figured out. Certain styles would not look good on my body (as it is now) no matter what, and other styles held possibility. Let yourself experiment and figure out what works on the (beautiful) body you have. Then you can avoid grabbing something off the rack to try on that will not flatter and choose styles that likely will.

7. Keep up the positive self-talk. It really does matter what you say to yourself. After a while, you start believing it. At first, I didn’t do this well during my shopping trip and beat myself up for not looking goh-geous in everything I tried on. By Day Two, I had a different perspective and stayed far more positive. I was a beautiful woman, and my goal was simply to hunt down clothes that helped me show and feel that truth.

8. Rely on godly friends. Just a shout-out here to my friend “L” who stuck with me on the phone as I hunted down the right look. She even let me text her photos and ask for her thoughts. She helped with opinions, but also keeping my spirits up.* You might do better shopping with an encouraging friend, a family member, or your spouse. It certainly helped me.

Do I feel beautiful? Not all the time.

But it isn’t always about how I’m feeling. I know I’m beautiful, because I was crafted by an amazing Creator. I want to take care of the body He gave me, and that includes appreciating it, even when a shopping trip isn’t going my way.

I am still on the journey of feeling beautiful, but I’m getting better and better.

And since I’m sure some of you are wondering, here’s one of the outfits I came home with:

Julie in dress and boots

*Just a quick note that Spock (hubby) was with me on Day One. He really tried to encourage me, but he’s not a wordy guy and didn’t know what to say. His reassurance when we got home helped me more than we were out and about. And that’s okay. Your husband doesn’t have to be and do everything for you. I let Spock be who he is, and seek out friendships to support me as well.

Q&A: Faking the Orgasm? It’s Time to Get Real.

Welcome back to another summer installment of Q&A with J. Today’s question is another one many wives can likely relate to. It’s about orgasm:

I need some insight. I’ve been married for almost 2 years and I’ve never had an orgasm. I have always had a very healthy view of sex. I have no history of negative sexual experiences (none at all). I feel like I get plenty relaxed and I truly enjoy it. However I have been faking it since we got married. I know I need to tell him. But how do I approach him about it and what are the chances that I ever will have an orgasm?

Faking the Orgasm? It's Time to Get Real. via Hot, Holy & Humorous

Wives, how many of you have ever faked an orgasm? Raise your hand.

Holy cannoli, that’s a lot of hands.

Sorry, men, but I suspect a lot of women have at one time or another faked an orgasm. Before you all storm the female race and decry us for being deceptive divas, most of the time the intention is a good one. If your wife has faked an orgasm, it could be because she wanted you to know how much she appreciates your efforts to bring her pleasure. It seemed only right for you to be rewarded with a show of how fabulous a lover you are.

Yes, some wives fake orgasm to “get it over with” or keep you happy, but I believe more are truly interested in sending positive signals about sexual intimacy.

I wanted to clear that up before answering this specific wife. Now here’s my advice.

Stop faking. Good intentions or no, you’re lying to your husband. Proverbs 12:19 says, Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment,” and Colossians 3:9-10 exhorts us, Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” As your question indicates, you want the kind of marriage relationship built on truth and openness.

Pretending to climax is deceptive, and it’s created this conundrum of what to do now. How do you repair the rift between what’s really happening and what your actions have made him believe? I think the first step is what our Lord often says when we’re in the midst of wrongdoing: Stop it. Just stop. Repentance has been described as stopping where you are and turning around in a different direction. And that’s what needs to happen when you’ve been lying to your husband about anything, including the orgasm. Don’t fake again.

Telling him. You say, “I know I need to tell him.” I am well aware of the admonitions that you must share everything with your spouse. But honesty doesn’t require a full airing of everything you’ve done, felt, and thought in the past. The Scripture strikes a balance between being truthful and being compassionate (see Ephesians 4:25, 29). For instance, sharing with my husband all of my premarital promiscuous past activities would be honest, but how does that build him up? What benefit does it provide?

Consider Psalm 32:5: “Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.’ And you forgave the guilt of my sin.” To God, we must bare ourselves entirely and seek His better way. To others, ask what telling will accomplish. Are you simply wanting to confess because it will make you feel better to get it off your chest? Would he be crushed to find out later you were faking it before? Or more crushed now to find out you’ve been faking? Will sharing your struggle bring you closer together and create a bond of in-this-together?

You might not think so at this point, but I believe the wife should fess up. Still, timing matters. Maybe she should say something now, because then hubby will be on her side in figuring out how to make the real deal happen. Some husbands would respond great to, “I’m so sorry, honey, but I’ve been faking the orgasms. I wanted you to know how much I was enjoying sex, but I shouldn’t have lied that way. I really want to have one, though, so let’s figure it out together. I really think you can get me there.”

Then again, maybe now isn’t the time. Maybe after that first amazing orgasm would be a good time to say, “I’m so sorry, honey. I was lying to you before about orgasms, faking it because I wanted you to know how wonderful you are. I always enjoyed sex, but I will never lie to you again about the orgasm. That one was real, and I loved every second of it. I really want to make that a regular part of our lovemaking.”

So tell him, yeah. But think about when, where, and how. Make sure your words are honest and uplifting. I’m not saying to avoid conversation for fear of conflict (sometimes marriage must go through conflict to reach unity on the other side), merely consider how you approach the topic and be thoroughly loving in your words.

You can orgasm. I’ve seen the statistics on women who have never experienced orgasm. So call me crazy, but short of some real physical hindrance, I think — with intention, patience, and pursuit — every wife reading this post can reach the pinnacle of passion and bellow like a banshee.

“But I haven’t!” you scream at me.

Wait, save the screams for your bedroom. I admit some ladies are orgasm magnets, and others are orgasm-challenged. (That should totally be a thing, right? Orgasm-challenged?) If you’re orgasm-challenged, it’s going to take more effort, but you’re a tough lady so you can handle it. Plus, your husband is likely willing to step up to the challenge.

You’ll need time and practice. Give yourself permission to explore how your body works, what gets you going and keeps you charged, what takes you over the edge, and how long the process requires. Let me assure you if your first orgasm takes an hour to reach, it probably won’t always take that long. You two will get better at it.

And now, here’s a bunch of information about how to orgasm:

From my site
Orgasm: If Only I Could O
3 Tips on Having a Great Orgasm
But I Still Can’t Orgasm! What Next?

From Julie Sibert, Intimacy in Marriage
The Orgasm Page (with link to a bunch of posts on orgasm)

From Paul Byerly, The Generous Husband
Orgasmic Massage

What now? Regardless of how much you reveal, you need to talk to your husband. Approach him with a positive challenge to increase your pleasure in the bedroom. Explain you want to explore what turns you on, and you want to take more time to enjoy one another’s bodies.

You will likely need to become more participatory in bed — suggesting things to try, guiding his hand where it feels good, asking him to slow down or speed up or be more gentle or use more pressure.

However, your pleasure may not increase so much by specific techniques as setting the mood and fostering romance between you. Many wives get as much aroused by the lead-up to the sexual act as the sexual act itself. Spend more time touching, kissing, and fondling each other — even adding sensual massage. Use lubricant freely, since moisture affects how well our female bodies respond to touch, pressure, and friction.

Go for the clitoral orgasm first. It’s easier to achieve. Have him use direct contact with your clitoris, through manual or oral play. You don’t have to climax during intercourse for it to “count.” Anytime during the sexual encounter, a climax should be welcome — hey, given an embossed invitation and greeted heartily upon arrival.

Stop faking, start talking, get engaged, and you can — and will — orgasm. Maybe not tonight or next week or even next month. But sex isn’t ultimately about the peaks, but the whole journey. Enjoy the climb, and you’ll eventually reach the top!

Where Do You Need to Say “No” to Say “Yes” to Your Marriage?

Where Do You Need to Say "No" to Say "Yes" to Your Marriage?Today’s post is personal. Straight from my heart and no-holds-barred.

I have 22 emails in my Inbox, several messages on Facebook, and 17 outstanding comments that require more than a 1-3 sentence reply. I’ve let these things stack up, and I feel bad about it. Truly, truly bad. I want to respond personally to everyone, but I haven’t had the chunks of time to do it properly.

Then there’s my church, which often wants me to volunteer in more ways. Sing on the praise team? Teach a class? Make food for a family? These all take time—time I don’t have. (Plus, that last one takes cooking skill, which is also somewhat lacking…but I digress.)

I had to turn down an editing job recently that would have paid me some money I could use, because it bumped against three other deadlines in my life and I was pretty sure my husband would give me his why-did-you-agree-to-that?! face if I said yes. (He’s right. I tend to think I accomplish more than I can.)

This doesn’t include deadlines I have for my writing or that others have for me (agents, critique partners, etc.). I have books to read, products to review, colleagues to answer. I’ve even skipped a couple of blog days lately, and one month’s newsletter, for no other reason than I plumb ran out of time to get it done.

I know what it feels like to be overly busy.

And I need to say “No”—so that I can “Yes.”

Not only will I not be singing on the praise team for a while yet (sorry, fellow songsters), or editing a manuscript I really wanted to read, or running for the Republican presidential nomination (Why not? Everyone’s doing it!), I must remove things already on my plate.

Because while these things matter, they do not matter like my faith, my marriage, my family.

Sometimes I think there’s where we get way off track with our marriages. We put all kind of things first: our children’s activities, church volunteering, extra jobs and hobbies. When we run out of time for daily conversation, date nights, and sex—oh yes, sex—we throw up our hands and exclaim, “But I’m so busy!”

Yes, you are. You’re too busy. Even if your schedule is filled with wonderful things, if those things are whittling away at your marriage and your marriage bed, you’ve got to set new boundaries. It’s time to say “no” to other things so you can say “yes” to your marriage.

My hubby and I had a recent sexless stretch of two weeks (rather atypical), and it was honestly because our schedules were crisscrossed and crazy. (Plus, a couple of sick days in there.) We just looked up, and suddenly two weeks had passed. Well, no wonder we felt disconnected and grumpy and “off”!

So yeah, I understand how this can happen to a couple. But I’m chiding myself and encouraging you at the same time to stop the madness, wives! Let’s look at our long list of to-dos, our schedules, and our priorities…and make some changes.

(And please don’t play the “if I don’t do it, no one will” card with that one ministry in your church you’re keeping alive. I contend heartily that if a church’s ministry relies entirely on one person’s efforts, it’s not a ministry of the church. If you step aside and no one else takes your place, maybe it was time for the church to say “no” to that so it could say “yes” to something else.)

I do not want to look up 5-10 years from now and have a successful writing career, a fabulous volunteer ministry, people singing my praises…and a flailing marriage. I’ve had a flailing marriage before, and I definitely want the thriving marriage I have now.

For myself, I have to say “no.” For example, I’ll be cutting down on answering personal emails—even though my heart goes out to each and every reader who writes to tell me their story—because I want to still have a great marriage years from now and be able to confidently speak into this ministry of Sex & Marriage by God’s Design.

I’m encouraging you to do the same. Even if it’s something good, it could distract you from what’s even better—your time with God, your priority of family, your marriage relationship, your sexual intimacy.

Don’t turn down sex for days and weeks because your schedule is overloaded. Say “no” to something else so you can say “yes” to your marriage.

If you do have a question for me that I might be able to answer on the blog, you can email me at hotholyhumorous [at] gmail [dot] com. I read the emails, but I can no longer personally answer each and every one. Know that I will not use your name if I choose to answer your question in a post.