Monthly Archives: December 2015

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!

Q&A with J: “I Can’t Remember What It Feels Like to Be Aroused”

Today’s email from a reader is short, but packed with issues. This wife has faced several struggles with sex and worries that she’s going to be stuck with these problems forever.

I’ve been struggling through theses past few months breaking down mental and physical blocks towards sex. I guess I should probably start at the beginning. Three years ago my husband and I got married and we were both virgins. The whole time we dated I would shut down any feelings I would get of arousal, I felt a lot of shame for those feelings. By the time we made it to our wedding bed I had essentially made myself react a-sexually. I felt nothing, well, I felt pain. A lot of pain that worsened each time we had sex. Fast forward to a few months ago (I had a baby) and I couldn’t stand penetration, it hurt so bad. Turns out the physical side of my problems was Vaginismus. I’ve been treated and now I’m slowly getting to the point where I don’t feel guilty for having or asking for sex anymore. I’m still breastfeeding but I’m worried that even after I stop my hormones won’t work. I can’t even remember what it feels like to be aroused, I haven’t even had an orgasm (during sex) which has been a disappointment for my husband. Do I need to wait until I stop breastfeeding to see if my hormones are messed up and that’s why it seems like nothing is working? I’m worried I’m going to be stuck this way forever.

Q&A with J: "I Can't Remember What It Feels Like to Be Aroused"

Let’s start with the good news. You desire something better, and you’re seeking treatment for one of your sexual issues. That’s wonderful. Because some spouses, faced with deep challenges, simply throw up their hands and give up. Instead, you realize something is missing and it’s worth seeking sexual intimacy for him, for you, and for your marriage.

Anyone experiencing pain during intercourse should visit the doctor, explain the issue, and request a physical examination. There are several legitimate reasons why sex might hurt, but there are also answers. Seek treatment quickly and persistently so you can move toward the sexual intimacy God wants you to have in your marriage.

In this reader’s case, it’s vaginismus — the involuntarily tensing of muscles in the vagina, which makes it painful or impossible to have intercourse. It is a treatable condition, and Sheila Wray Gregoire wrote well on this topic: Wifey Wednesday: When Sex Hurts.

Now let’s deal with the other issues.

Shame about arousal. The reader writes: “The whole time we dated I would shut down any feelings I would get of arousal, I felt a lot of shame for those feelings. By the time we made it to our wedding bed I had essentially made myself react a-sexually.” Unfortunately, some women have received so many don’t-have-sex messages that they mistake their God-given sexuality for sinfulness. Even when they simply feel aroused, they experience shame.

The purity message in the Church can be so strong we end up communicating not only that good girls don’t, but good girls don’t even think about it. That’s entirely unrealistic and unsupported by Scripture. Rather, God created our bodies to respond in sensual ways to the one we love but commanded we express those feelings in the right context — the marriage bed.

The way to combat the shame you’ve felt is to consistently replace it with truth, retraining your thoughts to line up with God’s plan. Reading biblically based blogs and books about Christian sexuality can help, but the Scriptures themselves are the best place to go for ultimate truth. Read the Song of Songs through more than once, and consider that God, the Creator of sex, made sure that book was in His Holy Word. My devotional book, Intimacy Revealed, specifically walks wives through scriptures that relate to sex in the marriage bed, showing how God designed us to experience pleasurable sensations and physical intimacy with our spouses.

When you begin to feel shame or tension, remind yourself of God’s goodness and His generosity when it comes to sex. Purity is no sex outside of marriage, not no sex at all. A wife having amazing sex in her marriage is absolutely pure.

Purity is no sex outside of marriage, not no sex at all. A wife having amazing sex in her marriage is absolutely pure. Click To Tweet

Role of hormones. Hormones definitely affect arousal and pleasure. Certain times of the month are easier to engage than others, and pregnancy and breastfeeding years can be challenging to one’s libido and sexual response.

That said, hormones aren’t everything. Usually, when a woman’s hormones are in the way, it means that sexual engagement requires more effort, but it can be done. You might not have an independent sex drive, but you can get turned on and awaken your drive in the moment. It might take more foreplay to get things going. You might need additional lubrication. Certain positions might be more comfortable than others.

Likewise, breastfeeding can lower your libido, but it shouldn’t keep your body from responding sexually unless something else is going on. I experienced too-low estrogen while nursing, and once that was remedied, I was fine. So if you think breastfeeding is messing with your sexuality, talk to your doctor.

Your marital intimacy shouldn’t have to wait for months on end until everything is back to “normal.” Look for ways to engage sexually now.

Elusive arousal. Who wants to have sex without being aroused? I suspect the answer is nobody, but I can state with certainty — not me and not you. Quality arousal is key to experiencing satisfying sexual intimacy with your husband.

How can you rediscover the sensation of arousal? Some of your issues are indeed physical and you’re addressing them, so let’s talk about other ways to foster responsiveness. I suggest reading my post on preparing for sex, which might help you get in the right frame of mind. With some anticipation and preparation, you can begin to awaken your senses.

You can also engage in foreplay that focuses on the five senses. For instance, ask him to apply massage oil or lotion all over your body, and let that experience relax you. Close your eyes, and let him touch you lightly up and down your arms and legs, then your torso, and moving toward your private areas. He can use his hands, just fingers, or something soft like a feather.

When you’re engaged in sexual activity, try to block out anything other than the sensations your body is experiencing. Okay, don’t block out your husband, but you know what I mean. We wives can have wandering minds, and you’ll enjoy lovemaking more if you attend exclusively to your interaction.

You might also feel more engaged looking directly into your husband’s eyes or communicating verbally during sex. Some wives respond more to these reminders that sex in marriage goes beyond physical pleasure into the realm of intense intimacy.

Feel free to speak up for what your body desires or reposition his hands or mouth where you think it will feel good. If something doesn’t feel good, speak up then too. Make it clear to your husband that you’re learning too, and you want to figure out together what will make you more enthusiastic about making love.

And breathe. Just breathe. One of the best things you can do is when you start having sensations, slowly exhale. That will relax your body and help you lean into the pleasure.

Absent orgasm. You stated you cannot orgasm, then put in parentheses during sex. Does that mean you can reach orgasm through foreplay? If so, that’s great! It’s more difficult for women to climax during intercourse, because it’s stimulation of the clitoris — direct or indirect — that results in orgasm. In foreplay, your husband can hone in on that target and stimulate you into ecstasy. Having him inside may not allow sufficient stimulation of your clitoris to get you to that peak of pleasure.

If you want to orgasm during intercourse, here are some tips:

  • Request more time in foreplay, getting yourself very close to orgasm when he penetrates. You might even want to go ahead and have a single orgasm before intercourse. It can be easier to reach climax after you’ve almost-climaxed or climaxed before.
  • Try other sexual positions. Angling your hips or having him move up toward your chest can increase his body’s contact with your clitoris. Some wives also do better with rear entry positions. Just give different positions a shot and see what feels good.
  • Ask him to continue touching your clitoris during intercourse. This is easier in certain sexual positions, like woman-on-top, where he can easily view the area.
  • Stroke your own clitoris while he thrusts. You can apply the right kind of touch and pressure to yourself, and many husbands enjoy seeing their wives so into the experience.

But if you don’t orgasm during intercourse, don’t sweat it. Just enjoy the ones you have and keep trying. If you think you might orgasm during sex, and it doesn’t happen, ask him to continue to pleasure you to climax after he finishes. Many husbands are willing to keep going until their wife is fully satisfied. Over time, you may figure out how to orgasm during intercourse. In the meantime, enjoy what you have.

Eternity feeling. When you’re in the midst of hardship, and it doesn’t abate quickly, it can feel like you’ll be there forever. Just read these poignant verses from the Psalm 44:22-26, as the psalmist pleads with God:

Wake up, O Lord! Why do you sleep?
  Get up! Do not reject us forever.
Why do you look the other way?
  Why do you ignore our suffering and oppression?
We collapse in the dust,
  lying face down in the dirt.
Rise up! Help us!
  Ransom us because of your unfailing love.

That sounds pretty hopeless, right? But if you’re calling out to God and both seeking answers, your current situation won’t last forever.

However, you might be there longer than you wish. Actually, you already have.

Still, remain faithful to pursuing God’s design for your marriage. Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” God is with you in this journey, and you can nurture your sexual intimacy. Just don’t give up.

Put Yourselves In the Christmas Photos!

I’m stepping away from my usual subject of sex today to rant about your Christmas family photo. Yes, you. I’ve seen your Christmas cards and your scrapbooks and your framed holiday photos, and year after year there are all those pictures of the children and fewer and fewer of the two of you.

Why is that? Are you not thrilled with your appearance? Afraid someone will catch your “bad side”? Concerned about how much you’ve changed since you took that one fabulous picture back in 1994 that you still use as your profile photo on Facebook?

I think many married couples are missing out by not chronicling their journey, including photos of themselves as they go through the years together. Little warms my heart more than seeing pictures of couples at various stages of life, with the same look of love in their eyes regardless of how their appearance alters.

Believe me, my husband and I do not look like we did on our wedding day. Well, we’re recognizable, but you can count a lot more wrinkles and sags on these faces than you could when we got hitched over 20 years ago. But there’s a story in those photos — a story of falling in love, making a commitment, struggling through challenges and doubts, hanging in there when others might have given up, and experiencing the redemption of God our Father.

I also want my children to have this record of our relationship. And your kids will want to see your photos someday. Maybe your grandkids.

Even your friends to whom you send Christmas cards — they like seeing your kids, but you are their friends and they want to see your smiles.

I encourage you to do this simple thing for your marriage: Take a couple photo this season. Take several, so you can get one you both like. Remember why you fell in love with this person and that you’re still here. No matter who bet against you.

You can even go for a photo under the mistletoe.

Dating. We were so young!

Dating. We were so young!

New parents, who had no idea what they were getting into.

Past Christmas

Christmas a few years ago. (Man, I hated that tree.)

Spock & J - New Year's 2014

New Year’s Eve 2014 Church Party

Christmas 2015

Christmas 2015 with my favorite gift

Merry Christmas!

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.

Q&A with J: A Guide to Using Personal Lubricant

Today’s question from a reader is straightforward and something I should have covered long ago. It’s come up before, but I hadn’t given this topic an entire post. Here’s the question:

I would love to read a post about lubricant! I hear so much about it, but I really don’t know how to use it. Do I put it on him, on me, in me? Seriously, I feel stupid not knowing. It would be wonderful to read a frank guide on how to use it. Thanks!

Don’t feel stupid. Plenty of us didn’t have a clue. And then we learned.

Q&A with J: A Guide to Using Personal Lubricant

What personal lubricant does. Personal lubricant mimics your body’s natural lubricant by providing a slick substance that softens the area and reduces friction. This is incredibly important, because any wife who has had intercourse without enough lubrication can tell you it does not feel good that way. Even having him stroke your genitalia without any lubrication doesn’t feel nearly as good as the wet version.

The vaginal walls naturally produce lubrication when a woman feels aroused, but if that’s not happening, a personal lubricant is an excellent substitute.

Why you might need personal lubricant. Some wives and husbands think that if she doesn’t have sufficient lubrication happening during arousal, either she is defective in some way or he isn’t getting the job done. Let me assure you that’s not the case. Two major things affect whether you get lubricated enough during sexual encounters: (1) Are you really turned on? and (2) Is your body cooperating?

To get turned on, your mind has to be focused on what’s happening and you have to be enjoying that experience. But even if you are, sometimes your body just isn’t getting the signals to get wet down there. It could be a particular time of the month, especially around your period, when lubrication isn’t happening. It could be a deficiency of estrogen in your body. It could be perimenopause or menopause. It could be something else.

Sometimes you just need a little boost from personal lubricant to get things slick where they should be slick. And thankfully, you have plenty of options for adding a bit of moisture.

Types of lubricant. Basically, there are three types of lubricant: water-based, silicone-based, and oil-based.

  • Water-based lubricants are very common. They are easy to use, feel less sticky on your body, and allow for easy clean-up. One drawback is water-based lubricant doesn’t last as long on your skin, so you may need to reapply if sexual activity continues for a while.
  • Silicone-based lubricants offer their own advantages. They last longer on your skin, feel even more slick to the touch, and can be used in water environments (like sex in the shower). However, this lubricant clings to your skin more, making clean-up a little more difficult, and some may not like the feel of it.
  • Oil-based lubricants include petroleum jelly and coconut oil. Petroleum jelly used to be a common choice for lubricant, but it isn’t a good choice overall due to health concerns. However, coconut oil has become a favorite for many married couples, including quite a few of my readers. It’s a natural choice and easy to find on shelves. The one concern is that may compromise latex condoms, if you use those.

Honestly, what you use is a personal choice. They all work and have advantages and disadvantages. I suggest trying different options and evaluating them as a couple.

I’ll give my own story here. Regardless of how many times couples swear by coconut oil, I won’t be using it in my bedroom. Why? Because my husband has an aversion to all things coconut — be it coconut in foods, coconut scents in lotions or candles, or coconut oil. I get it, because I hate peanuts, and even if there was a colorless, odorless peanut oil touted as the perfect lube, I wouldn’t want it in my bedroom. Out of respect for the hubs, we will find another option. It’s just a personal choice.

Choosing a brand. Beyond those types (water-, silicone-, and water-based), there are all those brands. Not only are there ones you might recognize, like Astroglide, K-Y, and Wet, but many good alternatives have cropped up over the last few years. In particular, there are some great health-conscious choices, such as Good Clean Love and Sliquid Naturals.

Even among a particular type, like water-based products, brands vary in how they feel on your skin and how long they last. You’d have to try different ones to see what you think.

On top of that, some lubes meet a niche. For instance, there are flavored lubricants for oral sex play, lubes made specifically with the guy in mind like Ride Lube by Sliquid, and warming lubes to heighten sensitivity. You might enjoy one of these options. (Although I will warn you that while some wives love the warming lubes, others feel a stinging sensation with their use.)

I know exactly zero about coconut oil brands, but I assume my readers will comment below with some great advice. *hint hint*

How to use lubricant. Now let’s get to the nitty-gritty. Let’s say you and the hubs are meeting up for some oh-so-sensual lovemaking. When do you pull out the lubricant? Where do you apply it? How much do you use? There are no hard and fast rules, of course. But here are some tips.

You can introduce lubricant whenever you want, depending on your goal. If you two only have time for a quickie, yank out the lube immediately to get things going as rapidly as possible. If you already know you’re in a dry spell, you might pull out the lubricant and ask him to apply it to your body to help your lady parts get moving in the right direction. Or you might want to wait and see how your own natural lubrication is working this time around. You can add lubricant to what you already have to make things even more slick if that makes penetration more comfortable. If you’re doing a hand job for him, you’ll probably want to bring out the lube.

You can apply it to your genitalia and/or his. For foreplay, you can focus on whoever needs it at the moment. For penetration, you might want to just slap on the both of you. That way, if one side gets a little dry, the other side is still lubed up and ready to go. Start with a small amount, maybe a teaspoon or less, and spread it around your vulva and clitoris or his penis. Then add more if needed until it feels sufficiently slippery. You can also put lubricant on your hands, specifically fingers, then let your fingers lubricate body parts as they stimulate your mate. You can use as much lube as you want, so slather on whatever fits your fancy.

You don’t need to specifically put lubricant inside you, since it will migrate as you interact. For example, if it’s on your genitals, then when he penetrates it get on his penis, then his penis spreads it into your vagina. But usually the additional lubricant will get your own juices flowing as well.

Cleaning up afterward. Sex can be messy. There are fluids involved, and when you add more, it can be even messier. But it’s a beautiful mess. Just be prepared that all that lubrication may leave a spot or a puddle where you’ve been. If that’s an issue for you, keep a towel nearby, or spread a towel on your bed before you begin.

If you use an oil-based or silicone-based lubricant, you might want to wash your body afterward. Some couples shower off together, to maintain that closeness and afterglow. But any residue left on your body isn’t a problem. It’s perfectly safe.

One quick note: Jennifer Smith of Unveiled Wife has written about her prior sexual difficulties due to the presence of parabens in products. From what I’ve read, some personal lubricants may contain parabens. If you believe this is an issue for you, make sure you get a paraben-free product.

Hopefully, this guide demystifies the use of personal lubricant in your marriage bed. If you’re looking for specific product reviews, check out Slippery When Wet: Lubricant Review from Intimacy in Marriage.

What other questions do readers have about personal lubricants? What advice do you have about using lubricants for sexual intimacy in marriage?