Monthly Archives: May 2016

The Two Sides of Love, TBP #36

This is an oldie, but goodie. Remember the Otter, Lion, Beaver, Golden Retriever personality test? Gary Smalley and John Trent, Ph.D. help you understand yourself and those around you by “finding a healthy balance between love’s hard and soft sides.”

“The Two Sides of Love: What strengthens affection, closeness and lasting commitment” by Smalley and Trent is both lighthearted and profound. While I enjoy these personality and temperament assessments, I also know that people change. So I read these, take the assessments, and know that they are fluid. The results might be different next year or five years from now.

In the meantime, it’s fun to have a metaphor for personality types. And it is helpful for understanding others better.

Review: 2 stars

I’ll keep it on my shelf for now. ūüôā


Sex Begins in the Kitchen, TBP #35

Sex Begins in the Kitchen: Because Love Is an All-Day Affair by Dr. Kevin Leman.

I read this book so long ago that I barely remember the takeaways. What I do remember is that Leman is funny, lighthearted, and able to write in a way that motivates readers to change things up a bit and create more intimacy — emotionally and otherwise. ūüėČ

Perusing it just now, here are three snippets that you may find helpful:

  • “Throw that tight schedule out the window and do something spontaneous. Inject a little sloppy spontaneity into your lives!” (page 61)
  • “List ten recollections about life going as far back as you can remember.” (page 103)
  • “Take a piece of paper and rank your ten most important priorities in life, and get your spouse to do the same thing. Once you’ve finished, compare lists.” (page 219)

Rating: 2 stars

And I think I’ll keep it on my shelf. The book is written with lots of quick, easy-to-read psychological references and insights into how people think. That’s helpful.


Created to Be His Help Meet, TBP #34

Remember when I began this book project? One of the reasons was to give an account for what I have on my bookshelves.

I was so very tempted to discard this book without mentioning it in the project. Alas, one of the rules I set was that I wouldn’t skip over any books. That I’d touch every single one and decide if it’s a keeper or it goes away. To share it with you. And to post a review if I’ve read it.

I do not endorse this book.¬†Created to Be His Help Meet: Discover how God can make your marriage glorious by Debi Pearl is intended to encourage. And, if you’re one of those women who doesn’t struggle with performance and comparison or insecurity, then this book may be an encouragement. For me, well, I do battle with performance and comparison. And I can be terribly insecure at times and this book doesn’t help in the least. It makes things worse. It’ll go in the ‘go away’ pile.

Rating: 1 star

*I truly believe Michael and Debi Pearl have the best of intentions in their ministry. And I believe their resources have probably helped many. This post is in no way meant to shed a negative light on their work. It just didn’t minister to me — or my marriage.

Night Light, TBP #33

Here’s the thing, I really thought we’d go through this devotional together.

I still think we will.

Night Light: A Devotional for Couples by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson comes highly recommended by a handful of friends and marriage counselors alike.

So, others have given it a high rating.

…there will be a day… LeRoy and I will sit wrapped in gingham quilts in the crisp autumn air on the front porch swing of our mountain cabin. We’ll take turns reading the devotional for the day while sipping steaming mugs of coffee. The view may even match the one on the front cover. It will be perfect.


Quiet Times for Couples, TBP #32

What is it about devotionals? It seems like every couple of weeks, a wife posts¬†on social media asking other wives, “Does anyone know of a devotional they’d recommend for my husband and I to go through together?”

Are you and your husband a devotional-reading couple? If you had asked me before I got married if my future husband and I would read devotionals together, I’m pretty sure I would have said yes.

Now? I’ll smile, blink a few times, and tell you ‘no.’ Maybe somewhere deep inside me, there’s a glimmer of something that thinks this might be a fun idea. someday.

So, Quiet Times for Couples by H. Norman Wright sits quietly on my bookshelf, waiting until a season in which we suddenly decide to be a devotional-reading couple.

I’m not holding my breath.

No rating.




Romance:Nurturing Your Marriage Through the Homeschool Years, TBP #31

Reading Romance: Nurturing Your Marriage Through the Homeschool Years is like spending the day with the author, Heidi St. John. Imagine arriving at her house at around seven in the morning, being greeted at the door by a bright-eyed, sticky-fingered cherub who leads you into the kitchen. There you are greeted by Heidi herself as she gives you a quick hug and offers you something hot to drink.

There are children of varying heights everywhere. They’re at the sink washing an apple, sitting on the couch looking at picture books, two are at the table squabbling over the jam knife, drops of jam going on table and clothing. And there’s this supernatural peace over the whole scene. You’re curious. And so am I. So we lean in, hoping to glean secrets to gaining peace in the midst of messiness.

This gal is the real deal. Right away, her disarming stories about the realities of homeschooling and keeping the romance alive in her marriage cause you to relax and let go of any guilt. In the first chapter, she comes right out and says, “I usually don’t tell people exactly how we homeschool, because I honestly believe that what works for our family may not work for another family.”

Encouragement flows from the pages as Heidi talks about the vortex — those years when Latin becomes more important than lingerie. And, sisters, if we’re being honest here, training up children regardless if we’re homeschooling or otherwise, this vortex is a reality in all of our homes. Somehow, in the midst of harried schedules and all that “must be achieved,” legalism replaces laughter.

“Take care of yourself.” She writes it plain on page 45. In order to escape the vortex and restore the romance, self-care is not a luxury. It is a necessity. Be realistic about how much rest you need and what is your stress threshold.

I complimented a friend one time on her superb ability to set firm boundaries on their family’s schedule. She said, “Sharon, we do this to keep our home sane. We put our children to bed at that time because I need the rest.” Know your limits. So that you have the wherewithal to be a student of your spouse and what makes him tick.

So that you have the wherewithal to give your husband preference in all things.

My children know that if I’m busy and the phone rings they tell the caller, “My mom is in the middle of a project. Can I take a message?” Unless it’s my husband. And there’s something sweet about seeing the smile on my child’s face when I’m in the zone and anyone else on earth would have been put on hold, but they hand me the phone and watch me drop everything to talk to the most important person on earth.


*This is what happened as I was finishing that last paragraph: My sweet husband is downstairs making breakfast — a favorite long standing weekend tradition in our house. In our family, we ring a Swiss cowbell when it’s time to eat. There’s a first “five-minute warning” bell. Then the second bell means it’s ready — come to the table!

Well, I was in my zone. I heard the first bell. I considered an immediate stopping point. Then I continued.

The second bell rang. And I had almost completed my thought. I typed a little quicker. Then my husband yelled up the stairs, “Sharon! We’re all waiting on you!” (The bell is supposed to make it so that no one feels compelled to yell for people at mealtimes.) So, I kept the most important person on earth waiting while I continued on in my zone. {Keeping it real.} We’re a work in progress.


My takeaway from the book: From self-care to preferring our husbands. From scheduling white space for our marriages to checking in our time spent in the virtual world to making our bedrooms a retreat, hanging out with Heidi is refreshingly real.

Of course, no feminine conversation is complete until we’ve covered the topic of communication in our relationships. Then the topic of Living Parallel Lives and what to do when one or both of you relate to the Homeschool Dad who said to his wife on her first day of homeschooling their kindergartner, “See you in twelve years.” The answer is found in the cord of three strands.

St. John speaks deeply, compassionately into the spaces where marriages are struggling. She is bold in her encouragement to stay alert and to rally. And she speaks healing for the brokenhearted. “All that we know to be true in times of rejoicing and all that we teach our children as we mentor and disciple them can easily be lost when trials come.”

She goes on to share the story of a difficult time in their marriage. She went to a trusted friend who said to her, “Heidi, you must learn never to question in the darkness what God has shown you to be true about Himself in the light.” Those words returned to her many times over the years.

The final chapter reads, “Chapter 10, Love for a Lifetime, The legacy of a real life romance, When the story of your family is finally written, what will the record show?” {smile} The Book Project #29.

We’re coming to the end of my books on marriage. There’s a handful more. That question… is it at the heart of all these books on marriage?

Rating: 3 out of 3 stars

*We got to hear Heidi St. John speak at a homeschool conference here in Germany in 2012. As down to earth in real life as she is in her book, she poured love and grace, laughter and epiphany into our souls.

I’ll never forget one story in which she told about her daughter waking her at eleven o’clock at night to ask her a very important question. “Mom, how will I know if I’ve found the one?” The audience broke into laughter. I thought to myself, my daughter’s only 11. It’ll be awhile before I get that question.

Then, one night, a year or so ago, my oldest son sat on the edge of my bed a little before midnight. “Mom,” he said, rousing me from sound sleep, “how will I know if I’ve found the one?” I smiled as I remembered Heidi’s story.




Alone in Marriage, TBP #30

Alone in Marriage: Encouragement for the times when it’s all up to you. Because every marriage has moments — seasons — in which extra encouragement goes a long way…

“Sounds depressing.” The sentiment came from a friend when I told her I ordered this book when it came out nine years ago. Actually, I ordered five copies. And this is the last one I have left. Is it just me that’s struck by the reality that I’ve found four other women to give this book away to while I still have three out of five copies of The Love Dare sitting on my shelf?

We’re currently 22 years into this journey. You know it’s not all mountaintop experiences. And those valleys? Phshew! Some of them are looong. And dark and cold. And claustrophobic. And lonely.

So when Susie Larson came out with this book, Alone in Marriage: Encouragement for the times when it’s all up to you, I bought a copy for myself as well as some to give away.

“Beloved, the Spirit of God has come to release you of the effect of dis-appointment. He reminds you, ‘Your appointment with your destiny is still set.'” ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†— Francis Frangipane

22 years. And I can honestly say it gets better and better. Easier? Well, not on some days. Definitely richer, more complex. Like starting the marriage fast-food style and eventually learning the art of the succulent cuisine experienced in a five-star restaurant featuring exquisite desserts.

I couldn’t agree more with Larson when she writes, “Marriage is worth fighting for, and prayer is the most effective way to battle for results. If only we had a glimpse of the activity taking place in heaven because of the prayers of God’s people!

…We either give up or gain ground based on our faithfulness in prayer. Oh, may God give us eyes to see the impact of our intercession! When we live only in the moment, we lose sight of the bigger picture.”

Today… LeRoy and I have spent the day embracing and making out every time we walk past each other. (I’m not exaggerating. Some days are just like this for us. Like one really long day of foreplay.)

Three days ago… we got in such a big argument¬†that we shouted at each other. (An hour and a half later, I couldn’t remember what on earth the argument had even been about! I asked LeRoy the next day what we argued about and he couldn’t remember either. Well then.)

Do you ever experience times when you feel like the responsibility for the marriage is all on your shoulders? I’ve felt that way before. Susie Larson is an encourager. Alone in Marriage is for you or someone you know who could benefit from bold hope and love spoken into your soul, spoken from a place of understanding and compassion.

Rating: 3 stars

Takeaway: I love Susie Larson’s personality. And I really appreciate how she shares from the broken and healed places in her own story. At the end of each chapter, there’s a section for you to simply receive encouragement through her “Lending A Hand” with succinct points to steady you during those especially precarious parts of the journey. She prays for you and with you with a written prayer. And then gives you a few passages of Scripture along with some questions for introspection or journaling.

Like sitting with a friend during a difficult bout in our marriage, Larson’s words speak encouragement, power, and love over relationship as well as over each woman. From the first page to the last, she offers reassurance that we’re not alone. And that there’s Hope. And sometimes, we could all use that little bit of extra encouragement to go the journey.


Love For A Lifetime, TBP #29

Love For A Lifetime: Building a Marriage That Will Go the Distance, by Dr. James C. Dobson and published in 1987. It would be six more years until I got married.

I have no idea where I got this book. And I’m sure I’ve meant well by keeping it on my shelf… I’m sure I’ll read it someday.

But, listen to this, Dobson writes in the first chapter,

[Regarding the five out of ten marriages that don’t end in divorce]… “According to clinical psychologist Neil Warren, who appeared on my “Focus on the Family” radio program, all five will stay together for a lifetime, but in varying degrees of disharmony. He quoted the research of Dr. John Cuber whose findings were published in a book entitled The Significant Americans. Cuber learned that some couples will remain married for the benefit of the children, while others will pass the years in relative apathy. Incredibly, only one or two out of ten will achieve what might be called ‘intimacy’ in the relationship.

By intimacy Dr. Warren is referring to the mystical bond of friendship, commitment, and understanding that almost defies explanation. It occurs when a man and woman, being separate and distinct individuals, are fused into a single unit which the Bible calls “one flesh.” I’m convinced the human spirit craves this kind of unconditional love, and experiences something akin to “soul hunger” when it cannot be achieved. I’m also certain that most couples expect to find intimacy in marriage, but somehow it usually eludes them.

He goes on to ask this question, among others, “When the story of your family is finally written, what will the record show?”

On a couple’s date night last Friday, the six of us¬†wrote down the answer to this question: What are three words you want to define your marriage? In other words, a year from now, three years, five years, when someone asks you to describe your marriage in three words, these three words would be a pretty good description. The cool thing about this exercise is that couples are writing their own words, individually. This way — unless they inadvertently use the same word — they end up with six words that cast vision, purpose, and mission.

Do you want to know mine and LeRoy’s?

Mine were Bold, Creative, Fun. LeRoy wrote down Adventurous, Globetrotting, Peaceful. One of the other couples came up with words that were all synonyms of intimacy.

No rating or takeaway, only because I haven’t read it.

I’ll keep it on my shelf a little longer. Tipped on its’ side so that I’ll know it’s unread.

What are your’s and your spouse’s words you want to describe your marriage? Let me know in the comments.


The Love Dare, TBP #28

Three copies sit on my shelf. Because sometimes, I believe so passionately in an idea that I invest in more than a copy for myself. Surely, I think, someone else will benefit from this, too. I think I originally bought five copies of this particular book.

The Love Dare is based on the hit movie, “Fireproof.” Written by the same authors who wrote the movie, Stephen Kendrick & Alex Kendrick created the 40-day dare to give marriages a practical way to act on¬†the principles from the movie.

Each day consists of 1) “a unique aspect of love… [to gain] a new understanding of what it means to genuinely love someone,” 2) a “dare to do for your spouse,” and 3) space to journal the journey, what you’re learning and how your spouse is responding. “These notes will record your progress and should become priceless to you in the future.”

Wanna know how far I’ve gotten in the dare? I think I’ve taken on the dare three or four times and I don’t think I ever got past day eight or nine. [Is that a gong I hear?]

Rck. I’m not even going to analyze this, People.

just move forward

The rating I give this book? 3 starsif you actually implement it. I think. I mean, how would I know? I’m supposing it’s three stars. (We may have to revisit this one in the future.)

The takeaway: “Love sometimes needs to be extravagant. To go all out. It sometimes needs to set aside the technicalities and just bless because it wants to.” (from Day 38, Love Fulfills Dreams) My best friend since seventh grade¬†immediately comes to mind. Amy loves like this. Extravagantly. All out. Fiercely. Devotedly. And not just her husband and children — though they definitely get the best of her. She loves the people in her life with this kind of lavish, no-holds-barred thoughtfulness and devotion.

Whether cooking, putting together an intricate salad, conversing, gift-giving, or working on a project, she exemplifies what it looks like to live life from a place of deep, abiding love. Her mother is the same way. Living over 5,000 miles from her doesn’t make a difference. She’s found ways to demonstrate love to me in ways that have only deepened the intimacy in our friendship. And although we let the time between our conversations go for a long, long time — a year sometimes! — we always pick up right where we left off.

I wonder if following through on the whole 40 days would teach me to love more like that.