Welcome readers from Crosswalk.com! A great place to start to find all my marriage thoughts is at my Marriage FAQ! Feel free to look around a bit.
It’s time for the May 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 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!
31 Days to Lovely: A Journey of Forgiveness
Sarah Valente knows a lot about forgiveness. A single mother of two sets of twins and one singleton, she has seen her marriage fall apart–twice–because her husband succumbed to the lure of sexual addiction. And while she prays for full reconciliation, she has walked a journey of forgiveness that she wants to invite others to.
Sarah holds that most of what we believe about forgiveness isn’t true. She asks,
May I boldly suggest to you that time heals nothing? Healing does not have to take time nor does time itself promise healing.
And then she invites us to join her through her 31 Day process of study, prayer, and journalling that will help you not just forgive the one person who has been haunting you, but help you begin a whole new way of approaching the world.
It’s a beautiful book.
In her depths of despair, when she struggled with incredulity that yet another husband could succumb to this, she said, “I simply knew that forgiveness trumped bitterness and brought about a peace that I desperately needed.”
This book is very rooted in Scripture, and it’s beautifully written. It’s clear. And it promises hope. She talks about the difficult issues: how to confront someone (rebuke, repent, receive forgiveness). How and when to reconcile. How to have righteous anger, and not self-righteous anger. And she admits that she does not have it all figured out–that she is on a journey, too.
One of the things I most appreciated was her emphasis that we are all in a battle, and in this battle, we need to make sure we’re fighting the right enemy. When our spouses hurt us, it’s so easy to get caught up in all the things they do wrong. “Why can’t he just be a man? Why can’t he just stop? Why can’t he put the family first, like I do?” Yet Sarah shows us that the real enemy is just our fallen nature; we are tempted towards evil, and it’s only natural that we follow it. So let’s get mad at the person doing the tempting (the devil). It’s okay to hate him; it’s not okay to hate our spouse.
Another question she asked which God has greatly convicted me of lately is “Do you trust God to defend you?” When you are wronged, do you rush in to defend yourself, weapons held high (Sheila says: You betcha!). And yet so often that backfires. So often if we just sit back, draw appropriate but calm boundaries, and remain at peace, God goes to battle for us and turns the situation around. When we rush in to try to prove our innocence, we often make everything worse.
Sarah didn’t really delve into her own journey that much, except in passing. I admit to wishing she would spill more details about how her marriage fell apart, but I believe she made the right choice by leaving so much out, and leaving us to read between the lines, because in that way she was honoring those in her life. So do not think you will read this book to learn all her dirty secrets. She tells just enough so that you can be assured that she knows what she is talking about, and then shares other people’s stories as illustrations as well.
I thought this was a great Bible study to work through. Sarah includes lots of places for journalling, and for prayer. My assistant, Holly, who takes 10 minutes to preview everything I review, said, “I would read this cover to cover if I had time!”.
I know many of you are walking through difficult marriages. He’s using porn. He’s not spending time with the kids. He’s disappointing you in so many ways, and your heart is broken. I think this book would be so useful as you figure out how to approach your husband and how to see the situation with God’s eyes. I highly recommend 31 Days to Lovely.
The Irresistible Husband
While Sarah Valente’s book deals with broken relationships, Jason Gratehouse, a pastor, has written a wonderful little book to help men turn their marriages around and heal relationships. If more people read this book, there’d be a lot less need for forgiveness!
Gratehouse’s book is meant for men. He’s walking men through the process of being an irresistible husband. And at the beginning of The Irresistible Husband, he asks that basic question, What makes someone irresistible?
What makes one irresistible is simply the way they make you feel about yourself. We love people who make us feel special.
And, he says, if 85% of our happiness is directly attributable to our relationships, then it’s worth putting in effort there.
The key to change, to raising the quality of your relationships, is found in you. This isn’t about changing your wife, we all know that’s virtually impossible. This is about changing you.
That’s a theme I touch on lots on this blog, and it pertains as much to women as it does to men. We can’t expect change in our relationships until we’re first willing to change ourselves.
And how should men change themselves? Gratehouse walks through twelve basic principles on how to treat your wife, and then four on how to restore passion. None of the twelve is earth-shattering; they’re all basic. And yet they’re all too often neglected. So Gratehouse puts a new spin on simple things, like “just Be kind to her!” and shows men how you can live that out. He gives lots of practical tips, and lots of Scriptural backing for everything he says. I love how he weaves in Old Testament stories to teach basic principles and bring them to life.
One of the aspects I loved the most was chivalry. And I laughed when I saw him using the same aanalogy I did when I wrote about it–the movie Kate and Leopold. Women want to be treated as women. We want to be honoured for being women. And he lists 12 rules for chivalry, in case we’ve forgotten them (and I had forgotten some of them!). Honestly, a man who did these things would be irresistible. I think that’s one of the reasons I find my husband so irresistible–he is chivalrous.
Here’s another basic but often overlooked key to irresistibility: Communicate with her. Women need to speak 20,000 words a day; men 7,000. The answer to being a good husband, though, is not ONLY in letting her speak (though that is important). It’s also in sharing your heart. She wants to feel connected, and while being heard is a big part of that, it’s only half the equation. If you want to be an irresistible husband, you have to learn to actually speak.
From the practical–help lighten her load–to the more spiritual–to having integrity, he covers all the things a wife would like. And they’re not the things you would necessarily expect. They’re not things like, “earn a good living”, or “maintain a six pack”. They’re the basic things that speak to a woman’s heart.
I especially loved his chapter on investing in your wife. He says that God has given your wife gifts, too, and you are to nourish her. That means helping her reach her fullest potential in her gifts, just as you try to reach your fullest potential. I wish more couples got that–that marriage is not a competition to see who can do the best, but is a partnership where you spur each other on and bring out the best in each other.
Of course, any marriage book has to spend some time talking about sex, and I have to admit, Gratehouse gets sex! When a wife loses sexual interest, it’s often because the husband has stopped pursuing her. He says, “I am responsible to set the tone for this environment in my marriage.” That’s the way we are designed; he is the initiator, and she the responder (this does not mean women should never initiate; just that our drives are really wired that way. Women want to be pursued!).
One thing I’d say about these twelve principles: They need to be read, and practiced, one at a time. You can’t read a book like this in one sitting and think it will change your marriage. Read each short chapter, and then take a week and put the principle into practice (because it will take practice). Practice being kind. Then practice speaking good words over her. Then practice pursing her.
He ends with four chapters on how to restore passion, because really, that’s the central issue for so many people. Why do we gravitate to marriage books, he asks? Because we’ve lost something.
How do you get it back? You remember–actively. What you had once can be had again. You don’t look just at the present; you see what is also past, and you learn from it. You see your wife through that lens.
And remembering is a mental discipline, as are the next steps in restoring passion. You learn to think differently. You turn away from unhelpful attitudes. You control your thoughts (and he gets very practical here telling men to be careful with computers). And you keep doing what works. Gratehouse writes,
The biggest reason why we stopped feeling that passion for our wife is because we stopped doing those little things that created the passion in the beginning. As men, we are infamous for having the mentality of conquerors. Once we have conquered and won our prize, we relax our efforts. We lessen the pursuit. We stop chasing. When we stopped pursuing, we stopped feeling. But the good news is that what got us there once will get us there again.
I love his emphasis on passion, because that’s the root of a successful marriage. Our God is a passionate God, and marriage is supposed to reflect what He feels for us. When I read the comments on this blog, day after day, it seems so often that it is passion that is missing. So many are walking through life just tolerating. And it’s not good.
The Irresistible Husband is written for men to read and live out. And any man who does so WILL be irresistible; I guarantee it. Rooted in Scripture and showing principles from God’s Word, Gratehouse shows the simple things that it takes to be irresistible. So for all you guys reading this blog, I highly recommend getting this book!
And now for something completely different!
For novel people, I like to include at least one novel in each of my “What I’m Reading” features, and this month’s is a great one: Shaded Light, by J.A. Menzies. I read a lot of Christian romance because I’m sent them, and my daughter likes them, and I like to keep track of what she’s reading. But honestly, I find most of them rather boring and a little predictable. I don’t know why so much Christian fiction has to focus on 18-20-year-old girls in the 19th century. What about 40-something women in the 21st century trying to navigate the pressures of modern life?
And so the Christian fiction I tend to enjoy the most are thrillers. And yet most of those are written by men, and most are courtroom dramas. I like a good courtroom drama, but often it gets a little, well, repetitive.
That’s why I loved Shaded Light. Think Agatha Christie with a modern twist. Just like P.D. James, too, It’s a true detective novel, focusing on relationships and characters rather than blood and gore, and it leaves you guessing until the final page.
Ellen Brodie is a lot like me. She has a great marriage, and she wants to make sure everyone around her is matched up, too. So she’s eager to welcome Lorry Preston, the daughter of a favourite cousin, into her home for the weekend, knowing that she can match this girl up! The house party has all been planned; everything is perfect.
But her plans go awry as more guests are added to the mix. A blacksheep nephew; a friend of her son’s; a sister of one of her husband’s law partners; and even more, forming rather strange ensemble just as a body is discovered in the garden.
As two detectives at odds with each other arrive to investigate, the group gets deeper into accusations, cover ups, and insecurities.
This book works because of the relationships between the characters. The two detectives–one gruff, older white guy whose exterior matches a really sensitive side that hates everything about the evil that he sees on a daily basis; and one a younger black woman with a lot to prove–form a great team. The people at the party, now unable to leave as the murder investigation widens, discover new things in common and new allegiances, even among people you wouldn’t think would hit it off.
The relationship between George and Ellen, the owners of the home and the hosts of the house party, is interesting. George has a strong need to succeed, and he has, by taking business risks and building a fortune. One of the things he takes most pride in is the fact that Ellen has never had to work (hence why she has time to worry about house parties and matchmaking). And yet what does George do when he can’t control everything, including his son? And will Ellen have more strength than they thought?
I just love books like this because, unlike those 19th century romances, they aren’t predictable. The characters are real, and varied, and modern. They aren’t stereotypes. And as they all try to seek truth, and try to find their way out of the darkness that surrounds them, they find out more about themselves, too.
If you’re looking for something fun to read this Memorial Day Weekend, pick up Shaded Light!