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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

More Than You & Me, TBP #27

First, that last post?

Nevermind.

I tried. I promise. But with a reading list a few miles long, I realized it’s better to move on than to punish myself with a book that simply doesn’t resonate. Annndd… three months have passed since working on this Book Project! Whaaat?!

Folks, I have to tell you… when I looked to see which book was next on my shelf, I got giddy. One of the very best books I read at the beginning of our marriage is More Than You & Me by Kevin & Karen Miller.

This is the core of why I ever wanted to get married in the first place. It may sound altruistic (it is), but I was genuinely delighted to be single… until I could marry the man whose strengths would combine with my strengths setting the three of us — him, me, and God — on an audacious adventure to impact the world and leave a legacy. In fact, I prayed, “Let me be the happiest, most content single person… unless there’s a man who’ll strengthen the mission of living all in with Jesus.”

I remember my heart beating wildly when I heard Kevin and Karen on a radio interview. We were newlyweds, and though we didn’t have much money, I ordered the book. …And devoured it when it arrived.

What could possibly bring more joy to a marriage than one that utilizes the strengths of their marriage to serve others? Even as I write this, I’m giddy!

This is seriously what lies at the core — the vision — of why I wanted to be married, train up children, and what has led me to study the field of leadership for the last 29 years. 

The inside flap reads, “In these pages, you will both learn how to:

  • develop a life vision
  • identify your God-given talents
  • grow closer while working together
  • include your kids in your marriage mission
  • overcome limitations caused by emotional and time restraints.”

(I think I might explode with passion right about now. Nothing revs my engine like being on mission — on a grand, Kingdom-sized adventure — with the people I love most in this world.) 

In an article in Relevant Magazine, February 23, 2011, Kevin and Karen write,

“The Book of Genesis, for instance, takes us back to God’s drawing board, where we see what He designed for man and woman. Marriage was meant for companionship—”It’s not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18 NASB). It was meant for raising children—”Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28 NASB). Most Christians would agree on those two goals. But Genesis assigns a third meaning to marriage: joint, fulfilling service. God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden and said: “Take care of this, you two. It’s a big job, and you’ll need each other. Together—till, plant, replenish, create” (see Genesis 2:15; 1:28).

We hunger for this today: cooperating together, meshing, working like a mountain climbing team, ascending the peak of our dream, and then holding each other at the end of the day. God has planted this hunger deep within every married couple. It’s more than a hunger for companionship. It’s more than a hunger to create new life. It’s a third hunger, a hunger to do something significant together. According to God’s Word, we were joined to make a difference. We were married for a mission.”

“We were married for a mission.”

Interesting that this book is next in my line-up of book reviews in this project. LeRoy and I are in the throes of creating a course to train families to live beyond themselves. To dream of possibilities when the family is on mission together. And this… taken into corporate cultures…

Yep, our family is dreaming together of possibilities. (Good thing I’m not connected to an EKG at this moment. My heart rate might cause concern. Ah, passion!! Love it!)

More Than You & Me is on Amazon starting at $0.01 cent.

**Hence the forthcoming book on leadership, relationships, and pursuing dreams. The idea of us living beyond ourselves written by yours truly. =) 

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The New Building Your Mate’s Self-Esteem, TBP #26

Written by Dennis & Barbara Rainey, The New Building Your Mate’s Self-Esteem.

This is most likely a great book. I mean, who doesn’t want someone in their life intimately invested in noticing all the great things about them? Someone building them up? Believing the best? Verbalizing accolades?

So, I don’t know why I’ve picked up this book a handful of times and can’t seem to get past the second chapter. My motive each time for cracking it open, fully intent on reading all the way through and applying the principles? I really do want to know how I can be a more encouraging person, not just for my spouse, but in general.

The introduction begins, “This is a book on motivating people to believe in people.” That sounds good. I’m in.

But then, the title of the first chapter, “Giving Your Mate a New Image,” causes me to want to put down the book and go eat an entire chocolate cake.

To be fair, I read through to the end of Chapter 2 where I arrived at the first “Esteem Builder Project.” Let me back up a little, the project is explained at the end of the chapter with big, bold letters that read, “Your Mate Needs You.” The immediate heart palpitations and blurred vision as I read those words is probably indicative of the need for some sort of therapy or counseling in my life. Ah well, onward.

Not one to back down from a little challenge, I decided I’d pursue the suggested conversation, “Ask your mate to describe what he thinks and how he feels about himself.”

And how did that go? you may be wondering…

[Cue stare and the sound of crickets chirping in background]

277 pages. 6 days. Approximately 47 pages per day. I can do this. I’ll assign it to myself. I’ll learn something. Surely. (I’ll get back to you on this.)

No rating, yet.

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Everything Men Know About Women, TBP #25

and then. Remember I said that I wouldn’t leave any books out or move them around, but go in the order that they’re on my shelf and review every single one?

Welllll…  Everything Men Know About Women by Dr. Alan Francis, America’s Foremost Psychologist, is the next one in this project.

*128 blank pages.

I’m keeping it. It’s kinda silly and, well, true. Though, I think we better get the companion book, Everything Women Know About Men.

Seriously, we think we know so much about each other. What’s the fun in that? I relish the idea of spending a lifetime getting to know my man. smile.

 

 

Etiquette To Please Him, TBP #24

Humor me? I found Etiquette To Please Him: How to Be The Perfect Wife on my grandmother’s bookshelves.

The book was written by Barbara Taylor Bradford and published in 1969. I haven’t read the book. I’m fairly certain I took the book home with me because the title captured my intrigue. Whatever I thought then, I now think, mercy!

So I looked up Barbara Taylor Bradford and found that this 82-year old woman is a renowned author of the best-selling fiction work, A Woman of Substance. On the Goodreads.com site, it says, “She lives in New York City with her husband, television producer Robert Bradford, to whom all her novels are dedicated.” They’ve been married for 52 years. And all her novels are dedicated to him. (Her 30th novel releases in 2016.)

I have to say, I’m impressed by the woman I found on Bradford’s website. She comes across as classy, elegant, confident, strong. But what on earth? A series on how to be the perfect wife?! goodheavens! Then again, married for 52 years definitely lends credibility. All right, I’m still intrigued, I guess. When I get to New York City, I’m looking her up. To take her to lunch.

Anyway, here’s something interesting: apparently Bradford wrote this book before she became famous. When A Woman of Substance took the world by storm in 1979, it propelled Bradford to literature fame. Like owning one of those baseball cards in mint condition of a rookie who goes on to become famous, that’s the case with this book. I could only locate one copy of this book on Amazon and it’s a used copy going for $90.

No rating, as I haven’t read it.

I’m leaving it on my bookshelf. Bradford — the woman herself — has sparked my imagination.

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The Book Project, #23, You Can Be the Wife of a Happy Husband

Well, huh. Another book that I can’t give a review on because I haven’t read it. And I’ll put this one in the donate pile unread.

You Can Be the Wife of a Happy Husband *By discovering the key to Marital Success was written by Darien B. Cooper and published in 1974.

I have to say, I flipped through this book real quick. I chuckled at one illustration that depicted an old IBM tape recorder with the enormous tape reels as the recording station in our minds. And then went and asked LeRoy if he’s a happy husband. He laughed. (That’s a sign of happiness, right?)

I don’t know, Folks. I wonder if there was an all-out counter-assault on the women’s libbers back in the day. I think I’ll make it a point to have coffee with some of my friends who are part of my mother’s generation. I’d like to hear their take on the culture back in the early 70’s.

No rating.

And I wouldn’t recommend this book. One time, I was enthusiastically sharing some advice that I’d heard from an acquaintance with a friend of mine who is also a mentor. She listened and then said, “Oh Sharon, be careful. She isn’t healthy.” She wasn’t being judgmental or snobby. She saw something that, in my naivete, I didn’t see. Over time, I saw that other woman’s life crumble around her. And I learned to be more discerning about whose advice I listen to. I know that the author, Cooper, means well in this book. But it raises a lot of questions and red flags for me.

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