What I’m Reading This Summer

Top 10 Summer Reads

Summer is one of the only times I get to read novels. Or rather, it’s one of the few times I let myself read novels, because I’m one of those people that can’t put a book down until I’ve finished it. So I’ll ignore everything else in my life until it’s done. That’s why I only read on holidays.

Recently my husband and I were camping just outside of the city where my husband works, so that his commute wouldn’t be as long and so that we could relax together at night at the campground.

I brought my Kindle along, but it wouldn’t connect to their wifi, so I ended up browsing the library of the campground to see if there was anything interesting.

I picked up a romance novel by a very popular writer (it doesn’t matter who) and sat down to read it. It was SO BAD. I mean really, really bad. My daughters make fun of how formulaic Christian romances are, but secular romances are just as awful.

In this one, she described a man’s eyes like this (when the woman first met him at an airport):

His eyes were mesmerizing and intoxicating….no, almost dangerous. They were so dark she could almost swim in them. She felt herself shivering, trembling, as he turned his gaze towards her. And then she knew: in that brief, ten second glance those eyes knew everything about her.

Okay, what exactly do those eyes look like? I turned to my husband and said,

Honey, can you gaze at me as if your eyes know everything about me?

We ended up laughing hysterically for about fifteen minutes.

I couldn’t read it. It was just too awful.

I did pick up a thriller I enjoyed by Jeffrey Archer, though. So I thought I’d write a post on ten books I’m now reading, or have recently read, that I’ve enjoyed, to help you as you try to find something worthwhile to read this summer! I’m going to start with novels, and then finish the list with three non-fiction books.

1. Eve’s Daughters by Lynn Austin

One of my favourite Christian novels of all time. Lynn Austin writes the tale of a woman having trouble with relationships, but you can trace the root of it back several generations. And as she looks at how different generations of women have handled love, marriage, and heartache, she shows how understanding your roots, and understanding the real grace of our Saviour, can help rebuild a broken heart. From an immigrant woman not sure if she loves her husband, to a woman who lets passion result in a hidden pregnancy, to a modern woman trying to figure out whether to stay with her husband, we see how real love and commitment does triumph.

Eve’s Daughters is such a hopeful book, and it’s lovely.

2. Don’t Let Me Go by Catherine Ryan Hyde


The world is full of broken people, and everyone in this book is broken. An 8-year-old girl, living in a run-down small apartment building, is being neglected by her drug addicted mother. Her neighbors, though, are determined that she not be apprehended by children’s services and placed in the system. So they step in to fill the gaps.

In doing so, many of these neighbors have to overcome their own brokenness. And as they administer tough love to the mom, they start to see a family repaired. It’s just such a touching book. Not a Christian one, but it still shows the truth that even in broken people grace can break through. I don’t often weep at books, but I did at this one.

One of the big insights is that much brokenness is really isolation, and the cure for it is community. If we all lived in community, we could heal so much more easily. I think there’s a major message in there from the church. I thought Don’t Let Me Go was beautiful.

3.  Safely Home by Randy Alcorn

One of my favourite novels ever. I can’t read it without crying. It’s about the persecuted church in China, but it will touch you like little else you’ve ever read. The description of the motivations of Christians in China cut right through you. There’s a story in the book that actually happened–a village had everyone move out. They left all their homes behind. The reason? Everyone in the village was already a Christian, so there was no one left to witness to. They had to spread out. The whole book is like that. Tons of spiritual warfare stuff, too.

Safely Home will change you (in a good way).

4. Dominion, Deception, and Deadline by Randy Alcorn

I do love well-written Christian books with a great plot, and Randy Alcorn always delivers. Here’s his modern series focusing on homicide detective Ollie Chandler, investigating different murders with characters we’ll come to love. More John Grisham than the typical Christian novel, but with a huge focus on the spiritual element, with glimpses of heaven and spiritual warfare, too.

I really enjoyed the whole series, but you can buy each book separately, too.

5. The Atonement Child by Francine Rivers

This wasn’t my favourite of her books (I enjoyed Leota’s Garden and the Mark of the Lion series better), but I did like this one. A young student at a Bible school is brutally raped and impregnated one night by a stranger. The Bible college requires her to announce her rape publicly so that others don’t assume she has “sinned”. She refuses, and eventually is kicked out.

The book is more about the relationship between her former boyfriend, her new boyfriend, and her best friends and how everyone handles the rape. I thought it was far-fetched when I first read it (how can a Chrsitian institution blame a girl for being raped?), but my eyes have really been opened this year about how much legalism there still is in the church, and so I think Atonement Child is an important one to revisit.

6. Anything by Jeffrey Archer

I’m not the kind of girl who escapes to romances (and I’ve written about why romance novels can bother me). When I want to escape, I want a sweeping epic story. And I do love Jeffrey Archer for that. He’s not a Christian author, but he tells a good story, and there aren’t usually graphic sex scenes at all (unlike Ken Follett, who also writes sweeping epics).

I found The Fourth Estate in that library at the campground and devoured it, and it reminded me how much I like him!

7. Atlas Girl by Emily Wierenga


What do you do when you grow up in a legalistic family to parents who have different dreams in life–and you’re caught in the middle? You develop anorexia at 9, and spend your life trying to please everybody.

Emily has written a touching memoir about battling anorexia, finding love, experiencing grace, and finally finding healing. The memoir takes us around the world as Emily tries to escape pain, but ends up right back where she started, as she finally finds healing.

Emily’s written on the blog before, and shared an excerpt of Atlas Girl here. She also wrote a while ago on why she couldn’t get undressed on her wedding night, a confession she also makes in the memoir. I’m reading it by the beach this summer, and I’d encourage all of you who need healing from your past to pick up Atlas Girl, too!

8. Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas

And now we’re on to nonfiction!

Do you struggle with doing devotions? Do you struggle with hearing God and experiencing God when you sit down for half an hour with a Bible and highlighters and a prayer journal? Maybe you just have a different Sacred Pathway.

Gary Thomas’ premise is that there are nine pathways, or ways that we most relate to God and experience God. One of those ways is through reading your Bible analytically, but many of them are not. You may experience God through nature. You may experience God through service. You may experience Him best through liturgy and candles and tradition.

I can’t say enough good things about this book. My whole family has read it now (my mother and my daughter are both trying to get Bible studies started in their respective circles of it). It helped me understand myself better, and why I need to go camping every year, especially in the rain!

As I’ve written before, many women don’t think their husbands are spiritual leaders, and long for someone to lead the family in prayer. But perhaps your husband just has a different spiritual pathway. Read Sacred Pathways. It’s awesome!

9. Why Gender Matters by Leonard Sax


In this world where people are saying that men and women are interchangeable, Leonard Sax, a scientist, writes a groundbreaking book showing that gender is, indeed, hardwired into us.

I so enjoyed this easy to read book, and any parent will! It’s got great commentary and what kind of schooling works well for most boys and for most girls; for what moms and dads contribute to a kids’ development; to what discipline techniques work better for boys and what ones for girls; for how to handle teenage risk-taking among boys; and more. If you’re raising both genders, you’ve probably noticed how they’re different. This book will assure you that you’re not crazy; that girls and boys really do need different parenting–and different schooling.

Every teacher should read this, too, because it’s a great commentary to why boys are also getting left behind in schools. Check out Why Gender Matters.

10. People of the Lie by M. Scott Peck


Scott Peck took the New York Times Bestsellers List by storm in the 1980s, I believe, with his groundbreaking book The Road Less Traveled. Peck was (is?) a clinical psychologist, and his book about grace resonated with people (my daughter’s reading it now and loves it!). He wrote several more, and then followed up with this one, his most Christian. Peck was on a spiritual journey as he wrote, and I believe became a Christian in the middle of writing People of the Lie.

In this book, he’s making an argument that “evil” should be a psychiatric diagnosis. Some people are just plain evil, and there is no way to treat them. They aren’t just narcissistic or disturbed or anything like that. They are actually evil, and the only way to deal with it is with a spiritual, not a psychiatric, approach. And if we realized that some people were evil, we’d stop using psychiatric ways to cure them.

And who are these evil people? They’re everywhere. They’re often married. They’re often professionals. They’re all among us. Peck shares stories of patients he’s tried, and failed, to treat, that he now believes are simply evil. I started reading the book when my husband was having trouble with someone at work, and Peck’s description fit this person to a T. People of the Lie is riveting, and it will make you see the world in a new way.

Maybe that’s not a good book to end my list on, but it is hopeful at the end. And it is a fascinating summer read!

So there you are–whether you like fiction or non-fiction, I hope there are some books that can entertain you this summer while also making you think and turning you more towards God.

Now I’d love to know–what are you reading? What do you think are great summer reads? Let me know in the comments!

This post contains affiliate links.

 

My Daughter Being Hilarious–and More!

My youngest has an awesome YouTube channel, and here’s her latest installment:

What Books Taught Her (that the authors never intended). I dare you to get through the Twilight rant without laughing:

And now for Katie being more serious:

Last week she was one of 15 quizzers from the Eastern Canada district of the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church sent to the international competition for Bible quizzing, which was held this year just north of Toronto (yay! We didn’t have to travel much. Next year it’s in Minnesota). They were quizzing on the books of Romans and James in the English Standard Version.

My daughter at internationals quizzing

Her team made it to the finals of the Consolation A division, and ended up winning that quiz. You can watch the whole thing here (hit the video that’s 79 minutes long–the times when Katie is featured are listed in the next paragraph). The first part of the video is a 20 question quiz. You get 30 seconds to answer a question, and most questions are jumped on after two syllables (in the district meets throughout the year you tend to get the whole question out–but this is internationals). To “jump”, the kids are sitting on benches with a sensor that’s hooked up to a board, and when you take your weight off the sensor, your light goes off. So that’s how they know who got the jump.

At 2:00 Katie leads in the national anthem. Katie jumps and answers 4 questions correctly–at 14:30, 28:15, 30:50, and 40:40–to win the quiz. It’s really pretty awesome to watch how well these kids know these books! Like I said, they have to be able to answer after just two words.

Katie (the captain) congratulating one of her rookie quizzers on pulling an answer out of nowhere.

Katie (the captain) congratulating one of her rookie quizzers on pulling an answer out of nowhere.

Katie can quote ALL of Romans and James, word perfectly. And she can tell you any verse. So proud of her!

Katie jumped on basically nothing, just said an answer--and actually got it right. Here's her surprised look.

Katie jumped on basically nothing, just said an answer–and actually got it right. Here’s her surprised look.

She ended up 6th out of 120 quizzers, and top Canadian. (But before you Americans get too proud, last year the top quizzer WAS a Canadian. Booyah!)


A Note About the Comments Section

I just want to take a moment and say something about the comments.

I want this blog to be a safe place where women can get great encouragement and inspiration for their marriage, their sex life, and their parenting. I’ve thought and prayed a lot about my perspective, and I’m quite comfortable with it, as are my publishers and the many people who hire me to speak.

However, I’ve run into trouble over the last 3-4 years with commenters who completely disagree with my stance on many things–specifically people who think that women don’t do enough in marriage; that most porn use is due to women’s refusing sex; that women should not set boundaries, since that is the job of the man who is in authority; that divorce is almost always women’s fault; and that the aim of marriage seems to be hierarchy rather than oneness.

In general, these commenters have been male, and they tend to comment critically multiple times on posts–and on multiple posts.

What I started to notice about two years ago was that my regular commenters–the women who come here day in and day out–were no longer commenting because the comment section was getting so nasty. My comment section was actually more dynamic 3 years ago than it is today, largely because of the negative tone that took over.

I didn’t want that, and I finally banned about ten commenters who were really spreading dissension. There is absolutely no problem with people having their own viewpoint, but I want this to be a safe place for the women who come here. And if my regular, faithful readers–who are the target of this blog–are being chased from the comments section, that isn’t good.

My eyes were really opened at the meetup I did in Ottawa a few weeks ago, because those women–who read me everyday–in general don’t read the comments because they either don’t care what other people think, or they don’t like it being so negative.

So once again, I think it’s time to restate my policy. I do not want to spread a view of Christianity which I feel is wrong, because 9000 people a day arrive here from Google alone–people who may have no Christian background at all, or who may be searching. For these people, in particular, I want to portray a positive image of what I believe Christ wants for marriage.

If people want to spread another view, they are free to do so on their own blogs.

Therefore, I will delete comments that I feel are harmful to the mission of this blog. I will let through contradictory comments, but, in general, I will only let through one from each person on a blog post. I won’t let arguments go on and on. And if certain people insist on criticizing me on every blog post, I will ban them, too. If I believe that comments spread a view of marriage that I think will turn visitors off of the church, I will also delete them, because I care very much about the witness of this blog and its chance to influence those who don’t know Christ.

And now I’d like to let my husband say something. Here’s Keith:

The main problem (it seems to me) is that these men are relentlessly putting forward the erroneous teaching that Biblical headship mean absolute authority.  In their view, women should not be permitted to set boundaries for their husband as he is “in authority over them” (as one commenter put it) and thus wives must submit without question to all the husband’s demands regardless of his attitudes and actions, be they sinful or not .  They further go on to characterize women who do not submit in this extreme sense as being disobedient to God and try to convince people that women (like my wife, Sheila) who teach a more moderate view are not following proper Christian doctrine.

Now I know there is a great deal of debate about what headship means, but I think we can all agree on one thing: our model as husbands is our Lord Jesus Christ Himself.  But a subtle (and deadly) error has crept into these men’s teaching. They feel they ARE Christ to their wives and demand the same obedience from their wives that she would give to Christ Himself. This is a gross misinterpretation of Ephesians.  In my mind, although Christ is my model as a husband, I fully recognize that (unlike Him) I am prone to sin, error and selfishness.  I have no problem with my wife “calling me” if I am slipping.  I believe the VAST MAJORITY of Christian husbands feel the same way.  And I think we all feel the same disapproval of men who demand this kind of absolute submission from their wives.

When Sheila first told me there were men specifically coming to her blog to disagree with her on issues of submission, I couldn’t believe it.  Do they honestly have nothing better to do with their time than troll around on women’s websites looking for fights about this issue?  That would just seem pathetic to me if it hadn’t been so hurtful.  So to all the women who have been hurt by what these men have said: Please know they are not the majority opinion and they do not have the monopoly on Biblical truth that they claim.

A successful Christian marriage works best when God is the one in complete authority and both husband and wife, in submission to Him, are seeking each other’s best interest. True, God has given a role of leadership to husbands, but the clear model of Christ is servant-leadership, not despotic-leadership.  Rather than proof texting from specific verses, we need to look at the whole teaching of Scripture in this area.  The clearest commentary I have is this: Jesus said you would know them by their fruit.  The Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  To me it is very clear which sort of home is more likely to provide an environment for these fruits to flourish.

May God bless you in your marriages as you seek to honour Him.

Top 10 Books to Read in 2014 to Boost Your Marriage

Top Ten TuesdayIt’s Tuesday, so it’s time for a Top 10 list! And today I thought I’d share a list of the best Christian marriage books that will help your marriage this year.

I asked a while ago on my Facebook Page for recommendations for great marriage books, and so many of you left great suggestions. I’m sorry I couldn’t include them all! You can go over and read those suggestions here.

But I’ve included the ones that resonated the most with me. I didn’t include the “typical” marriage books, though–the ones that everyone has already heard of, like The 5 Love Languages, and Love and Respect, and Sacred Marriage. These are great books, but I talk about them enough that they’re everywhere, so I figured they’re already on your radar. I wanted to include books that likely weren’t.

Now, ladies, I’m not doing this to overwhelm you. I’m not saying, “you need to go out and read all ten of these books RIGHT NOW!”

I’m saying that we could all grow a little bit in our marriage this year, and that’s a great goal. So I’ve divided these books up into different categories, and why don’t you pick a category that you need to grow in the most, and then pick one book? Just one.

Decide to read one book this year and then actually put it into practice. That’s better than reading ten, anyway! So choose one book in an area that you know you need, and I know you’ll see some real benefits.

 10 Christian Marriage Books to Help Your Marriage Thrive

Christian Marriage Books To Grow a Healthier Marriage

1. Boundaries in MarriageBoundaries in Marriage

Drs. Cloud and Townsend open their book with a great story of two different couples. Both have been married for over thirty years. One couple is at a buffet restaurant with one of the authors, and when the husband is finished his main course, he gestures to his wife, and says, “Doris, dessert now.” He wants her to go get him dessert. She’s embarrassed but she does it. The other couple takes pains to care for each other. They don’t walk all over each other. They treat each other kindly, and marriage is a joy.

And yet both marriages started out on very similar footing. In both marriages she did most of the work, and he thought he should get the perks. But only one marriage ended up happy, because in only one marriage did the woman learn how to draw boundaries effectively so that they were each treating each other with respect, in a Christlike manner.

Most couples have no idea how to draw boundaries and how to resolve conflict. This is a really practical book, and it will open your eyes to some of the roots of conflict in your marriage. I highly recommend it!

Emotionally Healthy Woman2. The Emotionally Healthy Woman

Sometimes in order to build a great marriage we need to start saying “No”–no to overfunctioning, “no” to caring what other people think, “no” to feeling guilty. In The Emotionally Healthy Woman, Geri Scazzero tells the story of how she was way too busy. She did too much in her husband’s church. She allowed her husband to never be home because she felt that’s what a good Christian wife did. She pushed herself to her emotional and physical limits because she thought her only role was to pour herself out for everybody else.

And in the process she made herself miserable and her family miserable. Their family only started to heal and grow together in a healthy way when she started learning to say “No”. A great book for any woman who feels exhausted and wonders how to stop the frantic pace of life!

 Rocking the Roles3. Rocking the Roles

What does it really mean to submit? To love your wife as Christ loved the church? To be a leader in marriage? Robert Lewis and William Hendricks tackle that huge can of worms in this supremely practical book, filled with lots of examples.

Here’s what I really appreciated about the book: they didn’t just say “here’s what the wife should do” or “here’s what the husband should do”. They also provided a blueprint of what a spouse can do when the other ISN’T fulfilling their role. And I really appreciated the end of the book where they give some concrete examples of how church leaders should help when roles are going really unfulfilled–something I commented on in my post Are You a Spouse or an Enabler? Sometimes I think we look at roles in a vacuum–you have to submit, period. But what do you do if you’re in an impossible situation? They offer some help that is sorely needed.

Mystery of Marriage4. Mystery of Marriage

When I was compiling this list of ten books, I asked my agent, who has read every Christian marriage book under the sun, what book stood out to him. And he said, without hesitation, “Mystery of Marriage”. It’s twenty years old now, but still highly relevant. Mike Mason writes meditations on what marriage really means, and what intimacy really means. It’s highly readable, in a first person account, that will open your eyes to the deeper significance of marriage and propel you to make your marriage the best it can be!

Chip says, “It’s just really, really good.” And when he says that, it’s high praise.

Christian Marriage Books To Grow Your Sex Life

Good Girls Guide My Site5. The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex

If sex has never been that stupendous in your marriage, you need this book! We were created to enjoy sex, and to have it unite us physically, emotionally, AND spiritually. If it’s not doing that in your relationship, don’t settle for that. Embark on a really fun research project to make it wonderful in your marriage, too!

I deal in this book with why God made sex the way He did, and then I look at how we can have great sex in each of the three areas: physical, emotional, and spiritual. In a survey I did recently of my regular readers, I found that 80% had not actually purchased any of my books yet. So I know many of you reading this have heard of this book but haven’t bought it yet. There’s so much more in it than is in the blog, and I know that it will bless your marriage!

Sex Savvy Wife6. The Sex Savvy Wife

J from Hot, Holy and Humorous has just come out with this gem–The Sex Savvy Wife: A Lovemaking Guide for Christian Women. It’s great paired with The Good Girl’s Guide. J gets supremely practical, and deals with the “how-to” of everything you can imagine in the bedroom. It’s more detailed in that sense than my book. It’s even got–gasp!–some diagrams.

I love that she went where many are afraid to go, and I’m happy to carry her book in my store, too. If sex has seemed awkward, and you just don’t know if you’re “doing it right”, J helps you figure it out and make it amazing. And it’s only $4.99!

Books to Grow Your Prayer Life in Marriage

Praying Gods Word for your Husband7. Praying God’s Word for Your Husband

I just love Kathi Lipp! And in this amazing book she helps us be our husband’s best cheerleaders by showing how we can pray God’s word in specific areas of our husband’s lives to support them, encourage them, and help them thrive.

I love this approach because it gets our eyes off of what we want and it gets our eyes back where they belong–to what God wants to do in our husband’s lives. And Kathi writes so simply, and with such passion for marriages. I’ve spoken with her at MOPS conventions before, and she’s such a great, godly woman. All of that shines through in this book. If you’ve wanted to pray more deliberately, and to see great changes in your husband, pick this one up!

Little Book of Powerful Prayers8. Little Book of Powerful Prayers

It seems odd to put this gem in a list of marriage books, but I truly believe this will help your marriage!

Stormie Omartian has written a little book with prayers from each book of the Bible–and several from a few. So as you pray through it you see the story of God unfold throughout its pages.

But here’s the reason I love it for marriage: I think many of us have difficulty getting a prayer life going with our husbands. We’re not necessarily comfortable praying out loud, and we don’t know when to pray or how to pray. This book has awesome prayers that you can pray together. Just keep it by your bedside, and every night hold each other’s hands and one of you pray the prayer. Then the other can add something if they want to (but they don’t have to). I think praying together, even just for a minute or two, can add so much to a marriage. And if you don’t know how to start, this book can be your guide.

 Christian Marriage Novels to Help Your Thought Life

A Time to Dance 9. A Time to Dance

Novels can sometimes teach us truths in a way that a nonfiction book can’t, and so I’ve decided to highlight two novels (although there are many more that are uplifting for marriage!). I have to admit I don’t love ALL of Karen Kingsbury’s books, but I really loved this series. It follows a middle-aged couple who have drifted apart. Everyone thinks they have the perfect marriage, but years of not paying attention to that marriage have led to potential emotional affairs, lots of retributions, and distance.

How do you find your way back when you’re not even sure you like each other anymore? In this book the couple has decided to divorce, but they decide not to announce it until after their child’s wedding. And as the wedding approaches, they realize how much they actually do have to lose if they split up. It was uplifting, and it reminded you of the importance of working on your marriage so that drift didn’t happen. A great read!

Scarlet Thread by Francine Rivers10. The Scarlet Thread

I love Francine Rivers’ books, especially the Mark of the Lion series. Or should I say, I love MOST of Rivers’ books (more on that in a minute). Rivers started out as a romance writer, and then was saved. So her books changed. But I think she writes of marriage so realistically and beautifully. And this book shows a woman who is doubting her marriage who finds an old diary, and in it she starts to see the hand of God in her ancestor’s life and marriage, and then begins to see it in her own, too.

And her marriage changes when she gets a new attitude and starts learning to love. It’s really quite beautiful.

One caveat, though: I really didn’t like And the Shofar Blew by Rivers. In that book, a pastor grows increasingly away from God as his church grows, and he eventually falls into an affair. Yes, he’s restored at the end and yes, their marriage is saved, but I felt that the wife was a complete doormat. If she had spoken up when her husband started to fall, and taken her concerns to the elders of the church, much of the heartache could have been avoided. I’m afraid that this particular novel tells women to do absolutely nothing when your husband is in sin, and that is not the message of the Bible that I see. So while I love The Scarlet Thread, and I absolutely adore the Mark of the Lion series, I’m not as fond of all of her marriage books.

So there you go–a list of ten books to help your marriage thrive this year. Why not choose one, in an area where you know you need to grow, and read it and put it into practice!

And leave your suggestions for great Christian marriage books in the comments!

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Top 10 Things I Gleaned from Happy Wives Club

Top Ten TuesdayIt’s a Tuesday, and that means it’s time for our Top 10 post! It’s a new feature I’m starting this year, and I’m so excited that one of my FIRST Top 10 posts is for my darling friend Fawn Weaver of The Happy Wives Club.

Fawn is a happy wife. But a few years ago she was just overwhelmed by all the negativity towards marriage in the media. So she told her husband Keith (my husband is Keith, too; Keiths are great!) that she was going to do something about it. She was going to start “talking up” happy wives, because she knew she wasn’t alone.

Happy Wives ClubFrom that dream started her awesome blog (where I guest post sometimes) and her fabulous Facebook Page. And now she has a book out which is hitting bookstores TODAY!

Happy Wives Club isn’t a self-help book. Instead, it’s more of a memoir, with a “Under the Tuscan Sun” flavor. She hops on a plane and circles the globe, interviewing couples who have been blissfully married 25 years or more on all the different continents, to discover the commonalities, the threads, the secrets to these happy marriages.

The book is about her travels, her discoveries, and even her introspection as she’s challenged to risk more, to love more, and to be open to change. And it will make you hungry. Seriously. She ate such great food!

I actually met Fawn two years ago when she was in the middle of all of these travels. She’s honestly a delight, and she’s so humble. And I pray that she meets her goal of changing the way our culture sees marriage!

In her book she gives away, at the end, the 12 “threads” that she found in happy marriages. Instead of trying to narrow those down to 10, to fit my Top 10 meme, I’ll just tell you to buy the book if you want to know all 12 (and you should buy the book!). I thought, though, that I’d share the 10 Best Discoveries About Marriage I found on the pages. Some of them are more minor things, but they stood out to me, and I know you’ll recognize these themes from my writings.

1. Sex is great. Why waste time by avoiding it?

Okay, Fawn would be MORTIFIED that I put that as my #1. Whenever she wants to write about sex she asks me to guest post because she’s kind of shy. But she included this little nugget in the book, and I’m so proud of her for opening up! And I think she said it brilliantly. After being away from her husband for several weeks traveling, they’re reunited in London. And they have FUN.

Making love is not equivalent to love. But not making love is most certainly a waste. We didn’t want to be wasteful.

Seriously, sex is lovely. If you look for a reason not to have sex, you will always find one. Instead, let’s just change our mindset, and not waste the time!

2. Gratitude is the Key to Happiness

Fawn writes,

Every happily married person I interviewed on my trip was grateful for his or her spouse, thanking God daily for one another.

Do you thank God for your spouse? Here’s your challenge from me for you today: before you go to sleep tonight, put your hand on your husband’s shoulder as you lie in bed and thank God for your husband. Bonus points if you do it out loud so he can hear!

3. Happy Marriages are Contagious

When I was reading Fawn’s book, my husband was sitting at the island in our kitchen, working on some corporate forms he had to submit to the government. It was seriously boring and he was aggravated. And as I was reading about these happy couples bubbling over with love for one another, I realized how happy I was to have a husband who would do the boring things so I didn’t have to. And I got up and gave him a big hug.

I did it because I was inspired by a couple from New Zealand that’s featured in Fawn’s book. Hearing about couples who love each other, and seeing how they hold hands, and finish each other’s sentences, and touch each other’s knees, is adorable. And it makes you want to reach for that, too.

Don’t be afraid to let others see your happy marriage. It will inspire them to love their spouses, too!

Happy Marriages are Contagious--10 Truths about Happy Marriages

4. A Happy Marriage Is a Key to the Fountain of Youth

Ever notice how adorable older couples are who are still in love? They look YOUNGER. And on her voyages, Fawn kept running into couples in their fifties, sixties, and seventies who looked a decade or so younger than their years. Staying happy keeps you young!

So treat each other well. Don’t sweat the small stuff. It pays such great dividends!

5. Deal with Problems When They Happen

Treating each other well and being grateful for each other doesn’t mean that you ignore problems. On the contrary: it means that you deal with them all the more, and as soon as they crop up, because you don’t want anything jeopardizing what you’ve got together.

Fawn writes,

I’ve known plenty of couples who choose to ignore budding problems or dissatisfactions because it’s easier in the moment. But too much of that for long enough, and you all of a sudden have a huge problem on your hands, or a midlife crisis, or a broken marriage.

Like I said in my post on being a Peace-Maker not a Peace-Keeper, keeping problems to yourself doesn’t help in the long run. Sometimes the route to peace lies through conflict, and that’s okay.

6. Listen to the Heart, not the Words

I’m a great listener when Keith and I argue. The only problem: I tend to be listening to the loophole, so that I can smash him over the head with it and win, rather than listening to what Keith is really feeling.

Happy marriages value the other person’s feelings. Instead of trying to “win” an argument, they try to make each feel respected and valued.

Kris, one of the women Fawn interviewed, understood this.

In that conversation with Richard, Kris did precisely what she’d done before offering her tennis quitting advice from years before. She paid attention. Instead of getting swept up in a reaction–regardless of how legitimate it would have been–she unseated herself and chose to focus on what Richard was saying. That kind of awareness is rare. It’s rare in a person and even more so with a couple.

But that awareness, when you let go of your own feelings and push them aside for now to truly listen to your husband’s heart–that makes all the difference in the world. You can always come back to your own feelings later. But if you don’t give him the right to air what he is feeling, and don’t give him the respect he needs, you’ll never come to a true feeling of intimacy or peace.

7. When You Get Into the Habit of Serving Each Other, Marriage Doesn’t Seem Like Work

Have you heard it said, “marriage takes a lot of work”?

I think that’s true–but I don’t think that’s the whole story. And so I was excited to see this echoed in Fawn’s book.

Here’s what I think happens: as you love your husband, you do nice things for him. You start to think, how can I make him smile right now? What could I do to make his load lighter, even if it’s only a small thing? Maybe it’s just getting him a cup of coffee, or giving him a kiss of the cheek as you pass by his desk. Yes, remembering to do these things takes work. But eventually it becomes so second nature that it isn’t work anymore.

That’s when things really get fun. I’m almost there in my marriage. I have a ways to go in getting my eyes off of myself and thinking more about how to show my husband love. But I am finding that marriage takes much less “work” than it used to because we’ve built good marriage habits. And now showing him love is actually fun!

8. Marriage Can Be One of the Best Healing Forces in the World

One of the things I so appreciated about Fawn’s book was her own story and struggles. She touches on some of the heartaches and problems and baggage that she brought into marriage. She felt lonely, and she felt useless, and she so needed to succeed to feel validated. And so she tends to overwork, and throw herself into business too much.

At the same time, she’s really nervous about having a child, because what if it wrecks her marriage? And what if she fails at that?

As Fawn talks to other couples, she relays how many of these fears are brought to the surface by God, as He starts to poke her in her tender places to get her to grow. But as you read the book, you realize that so much of that growth is not just between God and Fawn; it’s between Fawn and Keith, whom God is using to be a balm in her life.

I’ve had a week where baggage from my past has reared its ugly head again. I go through periods in my life where I feel paralyzed to open some emails, and the root of it is that I’m afraid people will reject me and not like me. It all stems from my childhood. But as I spoke to Keith about it, I realized that he is such a healing force in my life, and these things are slowly getting better. Marriage is a beautiful tool that God can use to heal some of our deepest wounds.

9. Life is More Fun when Experienced with Someone Else

Have you ever seen the most beautiful sunset, and then become immediately disappointed because your husband isn’t there to share it with?

Much of Fawn’s book is like that. You can feel how she enjoyed her travels and interviews so much more when her husband joined her. Yes, we need to have our own lives, and it’s important to develop hobbies outside of our husbands. But let’s never forget that life is richer when shared.

10. Happy Marriages are Alive and Well

I know many of you who come to this blog come here for help, because you’re not in a happy marriage right now. Perhaps that’s because we’ve lost that inspiration that it is possible. If more of us could sit at the feet of happy couples, we would move mountains to be able to have that for ourselves. I pray that both you AND your husband will feel that kind of urgency to create a truly happy marriage.

And let me end the way Fawn does, saying, it is totally possible! She writes,

Happy marriages are alive and well. The cries of their demise have been highly overrated, and couples happily married do indeed exist.

Happy marriages do exist--10 truths from happy marriages

Happy Wives ClubMay you one day experience that level of happiness, too.

Happy Wives Club hits bookstores today! Order your copy now, and you’ll be encouraged and inspired, too.

And now, just for your pleasure, here’s a happily married couple that will put a smile on your face:

Divergent is a Christian Novel–The Good and the Bad in YA Fiction

I am a big believer in reading novels. I read to my children every night from the time they were 6 months old (they’d still stare at baby board books). We graduated to chapter books when they were 4. And they’ve always found great pleasure in reading novels, too.

But I’ve always been really careful with what I let them read. Let’s face it: most teen fiction, and a whole lot of children’s fiction, isn’t good.

Yet I don’t think we should write off secular fiction as a whole, because books have the ability to transport us to other worlds and to really affect our hearts in ways that other things can’t. Books have the power to really heal and teach and challenge. I think it’s because when we read we need to create the story ourselves–we’re active participants. Because we can’t “see” the action or the characters, we need to imagine it. Unlike a movie, a book becomes a part of who we are.

And so today I thought I’d tell you about the good news and the bad news when it comes to Young Adult Fiction.

Stuff I Love: Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant (Divergent is a Christian Novel!)

Divergent is a Christian Novel (in my opinion)Oh, my goodness, what amazing Christian books without being Christian. I was introduced to the Divergent trilogy  last summer, when only the first two were out. The author, Veronica Roth, apparently started them when she was only 19, and sold them in her early twenties. She is a Christian. The books are not–outwardly. But I have never read such a good Christian allegory as these books. I truly believe Divergent is a Christian novel. The central question she is asking in the series is this:

Is it possible for humans, on their own, to overcome original sin?

And the conclusion? Nope.

They’re full of action and suspense and an amazing plot. The writing isn’t the best; I don’t think there’s very many words over two syllables. But honestly, teenagers don’t care. And we heard about these books not from other Christians but from teens we knew who were reading them. Katie started reading, and then I read, and I was hooked.

The central theme is that society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). Tris is born into Abnegation, but when kids reach 16, they are given a test which shows which trait they are best suited for. And then they get to choose: do you want to stay in your faction, or switch factions? And there’s no switching back. Once you switch, you leave your family behind.

But something happens to Tris. Unlike everybody else, she ranks for three virtues, not just one. She’s a Divergent. And because of that, she finds herself embroiled in a mystifying plot to try to deal with her and get rid of her. In the process, she ends up taking the whole system down. By the end of the second book, Insurgent, we find out how these factions started: humanity had tried to deal with original sin by “genetically” modifying out the bad. And it didn’t work.

Allegiant is the new and final book in the trilogy, and I haven’t finished it yet (though Katie did and she was really upset at the end!). I guess it’s a sad ending, but I think that’s okay, and likely in keeping with what Veronica Roth was trying to do (showing that there is no redemption this side of heaven). As far as I know she hasn’t publicly talked about the theological implications of her story; she’s hoping people pick up on it and that it makes people talk about it. But I think reading these books with your teens, or talking about them with kids who aren’t Christian, is an awesome conversation starter. I’m excited to finish Allegiant!

Often Christians think we can only read Christian fiction, but there’s great stuff out there in the secular world, too. You just need to be super picky. And even though these are marketed as “young adult” books, as an adult-adult, I can tell you I loved them.

Divergent is coming out as a movie soon and we’ll definitely be seeing it. Here’s the trailer:

I’m glad people are making intelligent books and intelligent movies that make you think about deeper issues. You can read the book and watch the movie and see only the action; but if you look at what’s really underneath the plot, there’s a lot of good theology there. It’s a great allegory, and I hope people think hard about it.

What I Hate: Fan Fiction

Every parent needs to be wary of “Fan Fic” as it’s called. Basically, fans of best-selling books, like Twilight, write their own books featuring the main character or side characters. They tend to sell well because fans of the books want more. Unfortunately, these books are often high sexually explicit or overly graphic.

50 Shades of Grey, after all, started out as Fan Fiction from Twilight.

Here’s the problem: Let’s say your children like a series that is relatively harmless. they go on all the fan pages for the book series. They follow it on Facebook. And then they see links to extra stories. They download them (lots of them are free, after all, because these new authors are trying to develop a following on the back of something that has already sold). But these books that they’ve downloaded aren’t nearly as innocent as the books they’ve read. (For the record, I never thought Twilight was that innocent, but it’s much less harmful than most of its Fan Fiction!).

The moral of the story: Really watch what your kids access on the internet. Even when it’s not out-and-out porn it can still be really damaging. Most of us adults have never even heard the term “Fan Fic”, but believe me–if you have teens, chances are they know what it is. So we need to keep vigilant and talk to our kids about what they’re reading, and how they’re accessing it.
Swimming Through Clouds-OfficialWithLogo(1)

Christian YA Special Deal

My friend Rajdeep Paulus has written a moving book about abuse, friendship, and the power of connection. I reviewed it here, but she’s hosting a great giveaway right now where you can win a bunch of prizes! She writes:

Talia and Lagan, the main characters in Swimming Through Clouds, met in the fall of their senior year in high school. To celebrate their unforgettably sticky, Post-it love story, I’m declaring fall as the best time to fall in love. :) And no better way to celebrate than with a MEGA-Giveaway with lots of Fun Fall Prizes including a $50 Amazon Gift Card!

Fifteen Winners will win over $150 worth in prizes. You could be one of them! So whatcha waitin’ for? The Swimming Through Clouds family invites you to jump into our pile of prizes and find plenty of ways to rack up your chances to be a winner. See you in November when the Lucky 15 will be announced! Happy Swimming, all!

What books do you love for teens? Let me know in the comments!


Women Living Well–The Book and a Giveaway!

Three Marriage Bloggers!

Women Living Well–The Book

My friend Courtney, from Women Living Well, has her first book out! It went live this week, and she’s so excited, and I’m so proud of her! I’ve known Courtney for years, but we actually met in person at last year’s Allume bloggers’ conference. Here I am (in the middle) with Darlene, the Time Warp Wife, on the left, and Courtney on the right.


Courtney’s passion is to show women that they can find joy in embracing the “time warp wife” role–by Finding Joy in your role as wife and mom. We don’t need to listen to everything society tells us about how we need fulfillment in all kinds of ways. We need to remember that God ultimately gives us fulfillment, and that as we love those He has given us, we will find joy.

So in her book she takes us step by step into finding joy in the things that matter most–first with God, then with our husbands, then with our kids, and then with our homes. Let’s put first things first!

Courtney is really passionate about joy in service, and it shows through everything she writes. I’m sure you’ll love the book, and here’s a taste:

I talk a lot about marriage on this blog, too, and it’s something that I think a ton about. So rather than talking about what Courtney wrote about marriage, I thought I’d tell you a little bit about Courtney–and what I got from reading the book.

Courtney and Darlene roomed together at the Allume conference, along with another blogger. That takes a lot of guts. I don’t room with people when I go away. I really like my space.

But needless to say, we all hung out in their room because that’s where all the action was! It was fun, and it was loud, and they had food. At the time, Courtney was finishing up her manuscript for the book, and she was frantically writing whenever she had a chance.

One thing I vividly remember, though, is that whenever I went into their room to chat, her Bible was sitting open on her bed. That says a lot to me–she was constantly in the Word.

And that was the part of the book that spoke to me the most personally. I’ve always struggled with maintaining a meaningful devotional life. I think because I think and talk so much about Scripture, it almost seems like every time I open my Bible it has to be as part of a large, in-depth Bible study. And when I don’t have time for that, or don’t have the energy for it, I always feel a little bit guilty. What can I get out of the Bible today, then, if I don’t have 10 different coloured pencils and a notebook on hand?

But Courtney gave me a new way of looking at it. Instead of always seeing the Bible like it has to be a big study, ask yourself,

What specifically is God saying to me today?

And as you’re reading, look for that verse that you can meditate on. And I’ve started to do that. It’s such a little thing–finding a verse that speaks to you everyday. But I do it. And when I find that verse, I write it in my journal and write about it. And then I write it on a little verse card, and carry it around with me that day, and keep referring back to it. And it helps me focus.

Last week my blog was doing wonky things again, and I couldn’t edit anything. It was fine on the front end (the part you see) but not for me. And then I read a simple verse about protection:

For you, O Lord, are a shield around me, you’re my glory, and the lifter of my head. (Psalm 3:3)

I’d had my head in my hands all day, worrying, and God said, “I’ll lift your head, and I’ll fight for you.” And so I carried that verse with me–and the blog fixed all on its own, without me doing anything.

That’s what Women Living Well is like–big picture things about how to see our roles in life, but then little picture things of practical ways to put it into practice.

I love it! And Courtney is giving away two copies! Read below to enter.

31 Days to Great Sex in Paperback

31 Days to Great Sex is now available in paperback! Make your marriage sizzle.Meanwhile, I have my own “new” book out! It’s not really new; it’s just that I’ve finally put 31 Days to Great Sex in paperback as well! And I’m so excited about it.

I’ve sold thousands of copies of the ebook, and that’s still the most inexpensive way to buy it, but I know that many people wanted a book they could hold (and it makes a great stocking stuffer, too!). So here it is!

The only downside is that shipping from Canada is a little hefty. My shopping cart is actually overcharging for shipping by about $2 (it’s a glitch I can’t fix), so I’ve put the book on permanent sale from $12 to $10 to make up for it. And you can get an additional $3 off by using the coupon code “Sizzle” on checkout (because who doesn’t want their marriage to sizzle?).

And you can win a copy below by entering, too!

Rafflecopter Giveaway

I’ll be giving away 2 copies of Courtney’s book, and one paperback of 31 Days to Great Sex. The first two winners drawn will win Courtney’s book, and the third my book. These prizes are only available to those in North America, but if someone from another continent wins, I’ll substitute some ebooks for the prize.

I’ll do the draw next Thursday at midnight EST. Just enter using the Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Things That Stood Out to Me This Week

Hi everybody! On Saturdays I like to just share some links that I think make good weekend reads, and some other neat stuff I’ve seen on the web this week. So here goes!

Can You Be Comfortable in Your Own Skin?

On Tuesday I published a guest post that really resonated with so many of you–Why I Couldn’t Get Undressed on My Wedding Night. In it, Emily Wierenga challenged us women to name one body part that we actually LIKED.

One woman left this comment:

After wrestling with this all morning, I can not seem to come with an answer with regard to anything about my physical appearance.

However I know that no matter what or where I am whether it’s at home or out in public, I try to make conversation, make everyone feel welcome, and some how let them know that they matter. I try to pull people in when I see them being left out.

I just feel like I need to say something. First, this woman sounds absolutely lovely–the kind of friend that everybody would want to have, and that radiates the kindness and compassion that Jesus shows. That’s wonderful!

But I just get sad when people say that there’s nothing nice about their physical appearance, because as wonderful as it is to have a great spirit, the fact is that we are physical beings. And if we really dislike our bodies, it’s very hard to feel confident and have fun with them! And a large part of enjoying great intimacy in marriage is being able to let go and be confident!

So if you’re like her, and you’re thinking, “there really is nothing”, I’d encourage you to read this post on Loving the Skin You’re In. And my book 31 Days to Great Sex talks about this in a bit more detail, and encourages husbands to help their wives find something that they can appreciate about their bodies!

Your body is an amazing thing. It may not look like a supermodel’s, but we can appreciate it for what it can do, and for what it is, and for who made it. I think if we start to say more positive messages to ourselves about our bodies, we’ll be able to approach them with more gratitude and pleasure rather than shame–regardless of how we look.

Four Best Marriage Resources

A Tale of Two Kiddos listed their four favourite marriage blogs–and mine was there! Thank you. Head on over to see the other three.

I Love this Dairy Queen Manager! Feel Good Story of the Week

I saw this on Dr. Laura a week ago, but it’s gone viral since. Here’s the story in a nutshell:

19-year-old manager at DQ serving blind man. Gives blind man change. Blind man walks to table but a $20 bill falls off his tray and he doesn’t notice. Woman behind him picks up bill and pockets it. Manager challenges her; she refuses to give it back. He refuses to serve her. She leaves.

He serves the rest of the customers, then goes up to the blind man and gives him a $20 out of his own pocket. He doesn’t tell anyone else.

Customer, though, sees the whole thing. Emails it to manager. Manager prints out email and puts it on wall of restaurant. Other employee instagrams photo–and now it’s viral.

Now that 19-year-old who was working to pay for business college has job offers and scholarship offers. Makes me smile. He didn’t know anyone was watching. He just did the right thing. But God saw, and He arranged for that customer to see.

You can’t teach honesty; it has to be inside you to begin with. It’s something God puts there. And I’m glad people are recognizing it in him.

Neat Things To Read

Here’s a great explanation for what the generation born in the late 70s to 90s is like. NOTE: this is a big generality! Not everybody is like this! But as a CULTURE we are heading in this direction. It makes me wonder about the next generation: those born say in 1993 and since. They grew up primarily after 9/11, and their whole lives, that they can remember, have had threats looming. Terrorism, bad economy, hard to find jobs. It sounds more like the generation that grew up in the 1930s. So perhaps things will change?

And on a totally different note, J from Hot, Holy and Humorous tackles the BDSM subject: Is it okay for Christians in the bedroom? I thought she did a great job!

And on another totally different note, here’s a beautiful post: I didn’t love my wife before we got married. All about how love is an ACTION. It’s great. And that ties us into this book:

Love to Stay: Sex, Grace and Commitment


I was sent a book to review by Adam Hamilton called Love to Stay: Sex, Grace and Commitment. It’s a short read (so men will like it!), and it’s a great one to read through together. But one thing that struck me as I read it was this dichotomy that kept coming up, again and again: both parties would say that what they want most in marriage is to feel like the other person is sharing his or her heart, and yet both parties both felt like that wasn’t being done BY THE OTHER, even though they felt it was being done by THEMSELVES.

No wonder a negative cycle starts!

Let me pull just a few tidbits from the book that can help us through some of these negative cycles.

Negative Cycle of Communication

Hamilton reported on a survey that was given to men and women of various ages of the top 5 things they’re looking for in marriage. (Interestingly, sexual intimacy wasn’t on the women’s lists, but it was high on the men’s!). But what was on both was this: Sharing feelings with me.

If they both wanted that, then why were they so often upset? Hamilton writes,

It struck me that the same words must mean something different to women and men. When I followed up on Facebook, asking mena nd women what the meant, the women said, “Sharing your feelings with me is not grunting. I need you to tell me more. I want details. I want informaiton. I want you to tell me what you were thinking and what you were feeling.” For the guys, it was much simpler. “Tell me exactly what happened, and give it to me in sixty seconds or less.”

So how do you break this negative cycle? Learn more what your spouse honestly values. And then give it to them–whether or not you feel like you are getting it in return. As I’ve written about before, you have the ability to change the dynamic in your relationship. So, as Hamilton says, start investing in your marriage. It’s the most important thing you have. Why would you not work hard at it?

Feeling Like Affection Has Strings Attached

Many of you can relate to this: you want him to be affectionate towards you, but everytime he touches you you’re wondering, “does he think this is going somewhere? Is he trying to make a move on me? Does he want something from me?” So the affection seems to come with strings attached, and that makes it not real. And so every time he touches you it starts this cycle of resentment. Instead of making you feel warmly towards you, it makes you withdraw, because he doesn’t just love you.

I’ve been on this boat lots of times. I wonder if Keith is really being honest with me. Does he really WANT to give me that back rub? Does he WANT to talk to me, or is he just trying to get something? And it’s hard, because you feel like there’s this invisible wall, and you both have your own agendas, and you can’t be honest.

We’ve gotten a lot better at this, but it is a challenge, because to women and men, affection often means something very different.

Hamilton offers a solution I don’t usually suggest: scheduling sex. If you know you’re going to make love Mondays and Thursdays, for instance, then if he touches your knee on Wednesday it doesn’t mean anything. It’s just affection.

That sounds great–if you can stick to Monday and Thursday! The few times Keith and I tried that in our marriage it never worked because we both like spontanaeity, and I’d inevitably start something on a Tuesday, and that would throw everything off. If you know she MAY make love at other times, then all of a sudden touching her knee takes on those same old connontations again….

But if this has been a struggle in your marriage, perhaps his idea isn’t a bad one to try!

After spending his short and practical book (seriously, it’s short enough and easy enough to read that men will read a chapter with you at night!) talking about how to make deposits in each other’s love banks, and how to build up the marriage, he says this:

You do love until you feel love.

That’s so true.

You Do Love Until You Feel Love

UPDATE: A commenter rightly pointed out that I maligned all men by saying that husbands are more likely to read this book because it was short. I am so sorry; I didn’t mean to do that. Here’s what was going through my head: whenever I recommend a book, I get emails and comments from women saying, “is it short? Because my husband refuses to read more than a few pages at a time”, or “I can’t get him to read anything.” Industry stats say that women buy approximately 80% of Christian relationship books. So the comment was meant to reassure those women whose husbands aren’t big into reading relationship books. However, I know there are many who do read these books, and many more who will willingly read tomes on other subjects. So I’m sorry if it was offensive! That’s just where I was coming from.

Books to Help You Deal with Affairs in Your Marriage

I know many of you are in really rough places in your marriage because of infidelity, and you need some help.

I find myself getting lots of emails from women whose husbands are having affairs, or are heavily involved in porn, or are texting another woman. And these readers don’t know what to do.

And I also find myself recommending the same books to different people, over and over. And so I thought today that I’d put together a resource post of books I know of if your spouse is having an affair, or flirting with having an affair, or if you are trying to recover from an affair. I’ll likely add to this later, so if you have other favourites, leave them in the comments! (And I would count heavy porn use as an affair, too, as I wrote in this post on “Is Watching Porn Cheating“?)

Here are some that are often recommended, and I’ll review them here. To sum up:

Love Must Be Tough–awesome if your spouse is cheating or doing something to endanger the marriage and doesn’t seem to care or want to rebuild.
Surviving an Affair–awesome and compassionate advice for both the one who cheated and the spouse who is cheated upon to help you rebuild.
Torn Asunder–meant to help you rebuild, but seems to blame the victim. I’d recommend Surviving an Affair instead.

Read below for more detailed reviews!

Love Must Be Tough by James Dobson

Love Must Be ToughIn Love Must Be Tough, Dobson asks the question, “what do you do when only one person wants to save a marriage?” As a counselor, he says, he’s used to seeing couples. Two people walk into his counseling room, and they start talking about their issues.

Yet Dobson was finding that this model wasn’t really helpful to many people, because in most cases when a marriage goes sour, only one person wants to save it. The other seems content to let it go.

So what do you do if you’re the spouse who wants to save the relationship, and your spouse is having an affair, or is heavily addicted to porn, or is doing something else that is completely destructive to the relationship?

Dobson walks you through a process of “waking the other spouse up”, showing them the consequences of their actions. Most people, he says, when confronted with a wayward spouse, panic and try to bend over backwards, thinking that if they’re just nice enough, and if they’re just forgiving enough, and if they’re just sexy enough, the spouse will return. Actually, says Dobson, the exact opposite is true. Becoming a doormat is not going to save your marriage. Allowing your spouse to experience the repercussions of their actions and be jolted into doing the right thing is a better course of action.

And it’s also better for you spiritually. So he shows you how to rely on God during this time, how to make wise decisions for you and the kids, and how to leave the door open so that reconciliation is not only possible, but far more probable than if you turn yourself inside out for a cheating spouse. And if reconciliation doesn’t happen, you’re still in a stronger place with God, and you’re able to move forward.

A great book if you’re the one being treated horribly in your marriage.

Surviving an Affair

Surviving an AffairHow do you end an affair? Can you rebuild after an affair? How do you learn to trust again?

Dr. Willard Harley Jr. and Dr. Jennifer Harley Chalmers tackle these sticky problems in this excellent and practical book which walks couples through the recovery process.

They start the book with analyzing affairs and how they end, and I learned something important here: 95% of affairs which are exposed die a natural death within 2 years. In contrast, if affairs remain secret they can last decades. This makes sense to me. Once an affair is public, and it has to then be a real relationship, it likely won’t last because it’s built on such a shaky foundation. But if it remains in secret, it’s really just a fantasy. It has nothing to do with real life. And you can carry on a fantasy for a long time.

So if a spouse learns of an affair, chances are that affair will end.

And that’s what the Harleys insist upon–if you want an affair to end, you MUST cut off all contact, cold turkey. They walk you through how to do that, sharing different stories that are poignant, that all readers will relate to. They talk about what to do if your spouse won’t cut off contact. And they talk about how practically to make sure that the person involved in the affair can no longer reach you–even if you have to change emails and phone numbers. And they strongly recommend switching jobs if the affair was with a co-worker.

They walk couples through how to be accountable with their time and money, so that the other spouse knows that they can trust again. And then, and only then, do they start to rebuild the relationship.

And if the offending spouse refuses to end the affair? They walk you through how to expose it–because it expose it you must. They say:

Reality has a way of bursting the bubble of illusion, and an affair is one of the biggest illusions that anyone can experience in life. It’s based almost entirely on emotions with almost no logic to support it.

That fact becomes clear when children, employers, clergy, family, and friends all hear about the affair. Because they are not in the fog, they see the affair for what it really is: the cruelest, most devastating, and selfish act anyone can ever inflict on a spouse. With so many people seeing the situation logically and not emotionally, the unfaithful spouse has an opportunity to be advised and influenced by these people. Furthermore, the betrayed spouse gains support when he or she needs it the most.

If that doesn’t work, they walk you through Plan B, showing how having the unfaithful spouse face true consequences often jars them into reality.

When the spouse does want to rebuild, they walk through the psychological drama that often accompanies it–the unfaithful spouse suffering withdrawal; the innocent spouse desperate to rebuild RIGHT NOW.

They spend the rest of the book talking about the concept of Love Banks: how we are to avoid withdrawals, and try to make as many deposits as possible during this turbulent time. And they’re really practical about it.

That’s what I like about this book–it’s super practical, and it tells you exactly what to do in each situation to rebuild your marriage and deal appropriately with a wayward spouse. And reading through it, I felt hope, even for desperate couples. It really can be done. I highly recommend Surviving an Affair.

Torn Asunder by Dave Carder

Torn Asunder: Recovering From an Extramarital AffairI agreed with Dave Carder’s reasoning in his book Torn Asunder–that the message of an affair is important to understand, and that when you both decide to work through that message, the marriage can be saved. He also was very clear that the affair is the infidel’s responsibility.

However, he didn’t make that clear until nearly halfway into the book, and honestly, if I were a woman who had just found out my husband had cheated on me, this book would have made me feel horrible.

It opens with a rather bizarre several-page-long letter from “the other woman”–except that she’s not “the other woman”. She’s an infidel herself, and to call her “the other woman” isn’t very sympathetic to this guy’s husband. Anyway, in the letter she justifies her affair and is upset at her friends for confronting her on it. I don’t know why he felt it necessary to start with this letter.

Early in the book, too, he shows how personality and background can contribute to affairs, again cementing the idea that the person who is cheated on is somehow responsible.

I don’t think that’s what Carder believes, but if you were to just read the first few chapters, that’s what you’d come away with. I think Surviving an Affair does a better job at helping a couple with practical ideas to rebuild their marriage.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

What I’m Reading in July

What I'm Reading in July
It’s time for the July installment of “What I’m Reading”. I get so many requests to review books, and I can’t get through them all. But I wanted to give up and coming authors a chance to get in front of my audience. So once a month I’ll be letting you know about two or three books by new authors that I think may interest you. I try to choose books that focus on marriage, parenting, or Christian women’s themes. You can be featured in the future, too!

GAPPG.A.P.P.–God’s Appointed Position in Prayer

Cheryl White wants you to know that you have been appointed to pray for your husband–and you can be that prayer warrior, even if you don’t feel equipped! In G.A.P.P, God’s Appointed Position in Prayer, she helps you to stand in the gap!

And that’s what we’re called to do. In Ezekiel 22:30, God said:

I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.

We can be the ones who stand in the gap for our husbands–and in fact, that’s exactly what Cheryl White says that we’re called to do. In this devotional book, that you can work through over 35 days, she lays out a very strong case–irrefutable even–about how only prayer changes things. And we are in a unique position to bring God’s favour, blessing, and even the rod of correction on our husbands’ lives. She says:

The husband God has given you, the man you see before you today in the natural, may not be walking in the calling and pur- pose that was established for him before the foundation of the earth. One of the assignments God has given you as this man’s wife is to pray over your husband and to speak those things that are not as though they were.

I love that! I know many of you reading this blog and writing to me are frustrated because your husbands aren’t what you want them to be. Cheryl’s book isn’t about praying so that your husband will become the man you want him to be. It’s about praying so that he becomes the man God made him to be. It helps get your focus onto God, and not you.

Why should we have to pray? Because, Cheryl says, we have a unique position in our husband’s life. We know him. We know what to pray for and how to pray. And we love him. And with that position comes an appointment.

As I was reading this, I felt very convicted that I have not been praying enough for my husband lately. I pray a ton for my kids, but not as much for him. It’s almost like, deep inside, I feel as if he should be able to handle things on his own. But that’s not true. My husband needs God, and one of the main tasks that I have, that no one else can do for me, is to lift him up in prayer.

The book first lays a strong case for why we should pray, and why we are in this unique calling, and then it proceeds with the devotionals. Each one is just a few pages, with an accompanying corporate prayer that Cheryl has written for all of us, and some Scriptures that go along with it. She deals with everything from restoring sanity to finding humility to bringing joy. And the focus of the devotional is to help us submit to God, so that we can then be effective as we pray for our husbands. She uses great Scripture stories throughout, from Zipporah who interceded for her husband Moses, to Ruth, Vashti, and Deborah. And she writes really beautifully.

One of the themes of the book is that all of this is a battle–it’s not easy to pray, it’s not easy to spend time in God’s Word when life gets busy. There are too many distractions. She says:

My prayer today is that husbands and wives crave and desire to be freely filled with God’s Word every day.

I really needed that today, because I’ve been so busy moving the blog to a different server, and dealing with all the little things that fell through the cracks. It’s been a busy few weeks. But if we don’t fill ourselves up, if we don’t really crave that time with God, we’ll be in trouble.

I like what she says here. It’s so true:

You know the old saying, “If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” That just goes to say, “If Momma hasn’t prayed for herself in the best fashion and taken care of herself in the best fashion, then everyone else will not be prayed for in the best fashion.”

How often do I really carve out time for myself with God? How diligent am I with praying for myself to be effective in the positions that God has appointed me–as wife and mother, friend and confidante?

Cheryl invites us to pray bold prayers for the men we love, but she also is realistic that sometimes these men are not doing what is right. She helps us walk through forgiveness, disappointment, and even valleys in our marriages that are very bleak. Quoting Isaiah, where God says “for the Maker is your husband”, she says:

There may be seasons in your marriage in which God will have to be your husband. The answer to your problems is not to go and seek another man for the physical comforts that you may be longing for during your separation from your husband. No, the answer is to seek your Maker to be everything you need.

I totally agree, and that’s one of the themes of this blog. There will be periods when we do feel distant from our husbands–even times when we have to separate. Those are rare, but I know many on this blog deal with that. She helps us through with hope from Scripture to equip us to manage this dark period.

Overall, though, this is an optimistic book, a fighting book, a motivating book. She calls us to get off of our butts and actually DO something. We have the great God who wants to hear from us, and who wants us to pray. Will we? Check out G.A.P.P.!

The Great Cover-Up

The Great Cover Up

Joy Trachsel believes that most of us are engaged in a huge cover up. God has given us wonderful treasure, but we have stuffed it down, either because of shame, or guilt, or fear, or just plain wrong priorities. And so she wants us to uncover the riches we do have, because that will change our lives.

She takes us on a journey of “uncovering”, helping us to find our authentic selves, the gifts and talents God gave us, our passion–even the truth of the gospel. But she also invites us to do the hard things, uncovering the sin, and the brokenness, and the shame. Because it’s only once we deal with all the things below the surface that the real “us”, the real person that God made to thrive for Him, can come through.

Joy got to this point because one day her life changed radically. She was the perfect Christian woman–the Church Lady, you might say. She had four kids, a husband, and a ministry at church. She was a substitute teacher. She made meals for the sick. She baked cookies. And then she had an interview for a job at a homeless shelter, and all the pretty little things in her life fell back. A new Joy was born.

So many of us are living lives on auto-pilot, trying to not rock the boat. What if there’s something bigger out there? What if there’s a passion to uncover? Joy says,

God showed me many things during those first weeks. He showed me what it means to be stretched for His purpose. He showed me what it looks like to be called and what it looks like to find your passion. More importantly, He showed me that being obedient is difficult and ugly and messy, but it’s not impossible.

Now Joy’s cause is a homeless shelter, but she didn’t write the book to get us all to march down to the nearest shelter and work there. That’s not the point. It’s not about what you do or where you do it, but about finding God’s passion inside you and releasing it. She asks,

I wonder what the world would look like if we all found our cause. What would it look like if we all took the scriptures seriously and lived out the Bible with relentless obedience?

That would be some world, wouldn’t it? And it’s easy to read that little quote and think, “oh, if only everybody would get passionate about Jesus!” But there’s no point bemoaning it, because it needs to start with us. We need to be the ones going through the great Uncovering.

The book would make a wonderful Bible study or group discussion for a women’s group. It has questions at the end of each chapter that you can wrestle through, and there’s lots of material to digest–and lots of challenges along the way. You’ll find God constantly prompting you, asking, “are you paying more attention to the people who are LIKE YOU in your circles of influence, or are you actively looking for those who are hurting, who need you?” Ouch. And it’s great to talk about these things with friends! But even if you use it as a devotional for yourself, you will be changed. Journal through it. Write down what God is saying to you. We all so desperately need to catch the fire of His passion again.

The simple truth is that many of lead Christian lives very similar to Joy’s before her great Uncovering. She shares her background in the book, and shesounds remarkably like most of my friends. Saved as a child. Grew up in the church. Went on a few missions trips, but life was small, and we kind of liked it that way. Yet when did God ever say “you are called to something small?” God asks us to step out, even if it doesn’t look “big” to anyone else on the outside. And He invites us into deeper fellowship–a fellowship which is never really safe. As Lewis said, Aslan is not a tame lion, you know.

And so Joy shares what an Uncovering will look like. She’s honest about her own struggles, with anxiety, and fear. And she beautifully shares the stories of the women she’s worked with, weaving them in. They’re mesmerizing. And as she shares how sin got so many of these women into trouble, she tells us straight out: you can’t do big things for God if you have sin in your life. You have to deal with that first. And even if our addictions aren’t as glamorous as those we see on TV, they still are real to God. And they hold us back. They need to be uncovered, and dealt with.

And once we’ve uncovered the sin, and the brokenness, we can find our passion. We can start to truly hear God in new ways, and move forward in a unique calling. It won’t look like Joy’s, or like mine, or like your sister’s or neighbor’s or friend’s. It’s yours. Don’t live your whole life and miss it because you were afraid of living a big life–of truly coming alive.

The book takes you through a step-by-step journey of uncovering your passions, gifts and callings by being honest with God, humble before Him, and thirsting for authenticity. She gives practical tips where they might be necessary–how do you discover your gifts? How do you figure out who in your circle needs help? But the book is primarily a spiritual one that will leave you energized and motivated, if you have the courage to take the leap. Changing things up is never easy, but I believe that for too long the church, especially in the West, has been too quiet. We want our lives to look pretty, not messy. We want to carve out our little slice of heaven. But this is not supposed to be our heaven! This is where we learn to hear God’s voice, learn to follow God, and then bring others with us. Many of us are missing out on the great joy that serving God wholeheartedly can bring.

If you are struggling with your purpose this summer, now’s a great time to read The Great Cover-Up and wrestle with God through what He is calling you for. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to feel really alive? God has that for you, and Joy invites you on a journey to uncover it.

 

Great Beach Books for the Weekend

Happy 4th of July!

To all my American readers: I hope you enjoy a wonderful day with your families! And as a Canadian, I want to thank your country for ushering in political freedom across the world. That has truly been a gift, and I am thankful for it.

Today I thought I’d do some quick updates, instead of a long blog post.

Great Beach Reads

Heading out to the beach soon? Here are some books that can keep you company!

When Love Calls

whenlovecallsAt the turn of the century, Hannah Gregory is responsible for her two younger siblings, but she has no way to support them. After her parents died suddenly, this 20-year-old has to figure out a way to get by. So she drops out of law school–after being one of the only females to even try in the early 1900s–and tries to get a job as a “Hello Girl”, one of early telephone operators.

The rigidity of the rules grates at her, but she does her duty because she has to. And along the way lawyer Lincoln Cole, who is still feeling guilty about having to evict the girls from their parents farm, starts trying to woo Hannah. She’s unlike any girl he’s ever met. She’s headstrong, not given to stereotypes, and determined to make it on her own.

Certainly the book is full of Hannah’s dilemmas with Lincoln, as she has to decide whether or not to give her heart away. But the most poignant moments come as she tries to parent sisters who are so close in age to herself. When one falls for a completely inappropriate suitor, can Hannah convince her sister of her mistake?

It’s a fun read, and if you want a novel to reassure you that even in the hardest of circumstances God is looking out for us, When Love Calls definitely fits the bill.

I’ll use my traditional disclaimer with much of Christian romance fiction, though–I find books that end with a wedding difficult. My daughter sums it up well here, and I’ll let her explain why.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group

quarrymansbrideThe Quarryman’s Bride

Tracie Peterson has written another period romance that takes us inside the messy and dangerous world of rock quarries at the turn of the century. If you need an escape from the modern world, this can be it!

It’s one of those “do I follow my heart or follow my duty?” books, similar to the dilemma faced by Jane Austen’s character Anne in Persuasion. Anne decides not to marry someone at the advice of an older relative, and ends up alone. Emmalyne is told she cannot marry, because her duty is to care for her aging father. And so she breaks her own heart, and the heart of Tavis, the man who loves her.

Living in our world we likely find the plot a little implausible–why would someone throw aside love because their father is being unreasonable? But this was actually quite common until fairly recently. My grandfather, like Emmalyne, was the youngest in the family, and he was expected to care for his widowed mother, not to get married. And so he did, and he didn’t end up marrying until after his mother had died. I find it completely incomprehensible why parents would make such demands on children, but it was quite common.

And so Tavis and Emmalyne seem destined to be apart. Yet when their paths cross again, can they overcome their broken hearts and move forward? Or will the danger that Tavis faces at work separate them? Read The Quarryman’s Bride to find the answer.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group

Dee Henderson’s O’Malley series

I downloaded Dee Henderson’s book The Negotiator last week because it was free on Amazon for a day (and I announced that on my Facebook Page! I periodically announce free Kindle downloads there, so if you don’t follow me on Facebook, join me now!).

I’m not a huge fan of just plain historical Christian romances, though I do read them because I get sent them free to review. And when I’ve mentioned this, a number of you have recommended Dee Henderson, since she writes more thriller/romances.

So I read The Negotiator, and then The Guardian, the next one in the series.

I did enjoy them better than romances, but here’s what’s strange. In both cases, the male romantic characters are: mid-thirties yet not married and with no substantial romantic baggage; very athletic; very good looking; 6’3 or something like that; funny; great cooks; interested in nutrition; very romantic (they buy flowers and chocolates frequently); good at riding horses; financially well off; interested in protecting women; love children; and very Christian. In other words, they are perfect. Absolutely perfect.

I have never met anyone who meets all of those criteria. And I have never met anyone who is as good a catch as that but is 35 and single, with no baggage. I’m not entirely sure they exist.

So while the plot was good, I’m not sure it’s that realistic. What I would still like: a book where the characters are not perfect, and where the relationship is thus more realistic. I haven’t found it yet. Perhaps I’ll have to write it.

Nevertheless, if you are looking for escapes, these ones are good choices.

I’ve really enjoyed some of the more secular books I’ve read lately–The Friday Night Knitting Club; some of Kate Morton‘s works; some of Jodi Picoult’s books. If I can find similar writing in Christian books, I’ll let you know!