One Proposal for An Improved Marriage
by Lori Lipsky
For the first time in our marriage, we decided to read a book at the same time so we could discuss it together. Credit for the idea goes to my husband, but I was excited about the plan and in total agreement with our book choice.
My husband had once asked a well-read acquaintance we both respect to recommend several books that had been most influential in his life. One of the authors this man mentioned was Dostoevsky. We decided to choose Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. I’m a bit ashamed to admit what happened next.
I could make excuses, but the quick truth is my husband read the book right away and then patiently waited for years for me to complete it. I started in several times but got bogged down in the early pages by the long Russian names. Prior to this I had read Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and some Chekhov stories so I’m not sure why I struggled. I guess I allowed myself to be distracted by life and by other books, and I put off the Dostoevsky. As I look back, I regret not making The Brothers Karamazov more of a priority. I eventually purchased an audio copy of the book and completed the novel.
After I finished listening to the book, we shared our impressions with one another. Remarkably, my husband remembered details of the book quite well. Since then, we’ve read or listened to dozens of books and discussed them. We have different tastes, but our interests intersect with authors like David McCullough, Louise Penny, and David Baldacci. When it’s time to order another Audible book, we’ll sometimes collaborate to choose a selection we agree on so we can both listen on our own, but then have the book in our shared reading history.
Our book talk is informal and brief, but it’s a treat to talk books with my husband. We’ve found discussing books often sparks interesting conversation. Good books teach me more about who I am, but each new book we share helps me learn more about my spouse, too. We’re learning together as a couple. We discuss dreams and ideas. Books get us talking, and in marriage, communication is a good thing.
About the Author:
Lori Lipsky is a writer and teacher. Her poetry and short fiction pieces have appeared in a variety of literary journals and magazines. She lives in Waunakee, Wisconsin with her husband, where she teaches piano at a private music school. You can find her at lorilipsky.com and on Twitter @LoriSLipsky
A Child’s Life of Christ: DREAM MAKER
Storybook #2 in Series THEY MET JESUS
In storybook 2, your children meet….
*Simon where they learn not to get into fights,
*John the Baptist where they learn to not be so shy,
*Jesus being tempted where they learn to do good to others,
*Andrew and Philip where they learn to tell a friend about Jesus,
*Nathaniel where they learn to only say nice things about others,
*A poor widow where they learn to do something special for a widow,
*Nicodemus where they memorize John 3:16,
*A strange woman where they learn to be nice to people who are not like them,
*Two little boys who were healed where they learn not to be jealous,
*A sick old lady where they learn to give a smile to someone who seems sad.
Here is part of a sample chapter.
8 ~ THE STRANGE WOMAN
We sometimes decide people are strange when they really are not. We may decide this because someone’s skin or hair color is different, or they talk different, or they’re very tall or short, or have habits we’re not used to seeing.
Istar lived in a part of Palestine that so-called good Jews did not go to. The Jews would not even talk to those people because they were different in their customs.
But Jesus loved everyone and wanted to give everyone a chance to find out about God’s love.
Istar and her family and friends worshipped idols. An idol is like a doll or statue that people bow down to and call a god. They are not really.
“I have talked all day and I’m tired now,” Jesus said while traveling through Samaria. So, he sat down by a well to rest.
Istar came to the well to draw water. Jesus didn’t act like he thought he was better than her. He talked to everyone, even if they did look, act or talk different than him. So, he asked her for a drink of water….
Katheryn Haddad was born in the cold north, but now lives in Arizona where she does not have to shovel sunshine. She enjoys hot weather, palm trees and cacti in her yard, and a computer with the letters worn off.
With a bachelor’s degree in English, Bible and social science from Harding University and part of a master’s degree in Bible, including Greek, from the Harding Graduate School of Theology, she also has a master’s degree in management and human relations from Abilene University.
Her newspaper column appeared for several years in newspapers in Texas and North Carolina ~ Little Known Facts About the Bible ~ and she has written for numerous Christian publications.
Currently she teaches English over the internet every morning, using the Bible as a text book. Most of her students are Muslims. She has taught some 6000 thus far, and has former students, now Christians, in hiding in Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Jordan, Uzbekistan, and Palestine. “They are my heroes” she declares.
She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Christian Writers of the West, and is also an energetic public speaker who can touch the heart of audiences.
Stuck in the Sweet in the Middle
by Robin Steinweg
Do you ever feel you’re in that awkward, in-between stage? I sure do!
I recently spent years stuck in a crushing middle. Round and round I turned from the growing needs of aging parents to those of growing sons to those of work. I’d carve hours from sleepless nights to write, compose, or read. More often to pray. My husband accepted leftovers with grace and gratitude. Not just food, but time and energy. He was stuck in his own middle, caring for his dad and doing more for my parents than can be recorded.
Now our parents are gone. I’m living in the middle of grief, rediscovering who I am if no longer a caregiver. Looking to experience—and to pass on—the rich life Jesus came to give us (John 10:10). Know what? God shows me things I can do so He can help me move forward. I’m not stuck here. I get to be here, where it can be sweet in the middle!
If you’re in the midst of circumstances or even past them, it’s never too late to rediscover who you are. Try some of the following:
- Develop friendships with people who will build you up.
- Find ways to build others up.
- Journal what you’re going through as a way to release feelings.
- Photo journal or doodle journal.
- Admit if you need help.
- Get more color in your surroundings/clothing.
- List your blessings.
- Express more gratitude.
- Find ways to expand or share your hobbies.
- Join a book club.
- Volunteer to help others.
- If you have grieving to do, do it whole-heartedly. But don’t stay there.
- Live fully. Enjoy what God gives you to enjoy.
- Dream again. Don’t hold back—dream big. What does God have for you next?
These ideas have helped. Yes, I still pick up the phone to call my mom or find jigsaw puzzles for my dad. I still if wonder I could have, should have done more for them. Guilt and remorse creep in.
But I realize that’s the voice of our enemy, the accuser. So I intentionally turn to words of life in God’s Word. I leave my broken heart at Jesus’ feet. I embrace the blessings He sends my way.
I affirm this truth: It is Sweet in the Middle!
About the Author:
Robin Steinweg says life is like a sandwich-cookie. Whatever circumstances close in on us, it can be Sweet in the Middle. Her writings can be found in Today’s Christian Woman, Upper Room, Secret Place and The Christian Pulse. She also writes monthly for Music Teachers Helper blog.
Savoring the Not-So-Perfect Life
by Michelle Rayburn
(For September 10 – National TV Dinner Day)
When I was young, my mother cooked most meals from scratch, baked six loaves of bread every week and canned enough vegetables to feed the neighborhood if we ever had to retreat to a bomb shelter. But on occasion, we had TV dinners when she worked the evening shift at the hospital and my dad had to feed us three kids.
September 10 is National TV Dinner Day, and it has me reminiscing about those foil-covered aluminum trays with frozen mystery meat and gravy, blobs of mashed potatoes, corn and chocolate pudding—because who doesn’t cook their pudding in the oven, right?
In those pre-microwave days, we peeled back the foil to reveal the ready-to-eat meal when the oven timer buzzed. The actual contents were always somewhat of a surprise compared with the images on the box. For one thing, the portions were more appropriately toddler-sized, and looking back, this explains why my dad chased his meal with a giant bowl of fudge ripple ice cream.
Nothing looked as appetizing as the box, either. The gravy sort of oozed from the mystery meat over to the corn, and pooled in the pudding.
Isn’t life a little like that sometimes? Before it becomes our reality, the idea of growing up, getting married, establishing a career or becoming parents looks magazine-worthy in the images we build in our minds. And after all the anticipation, we peel back the foil and suddenly it looks a lot messier than expected.
As a recovering perfectionist, I’ve learned some lessons to get me through my TV dinner life:
- Savor every bite of happiness. There is goodness there when we look for it. Turns out, even mystery meat can be delicious!
- Toss out unrealistic expectations and embrace the imperfection of real life. Accepting what I have instead of longing for a picture on a box has brought me such contentment.
- Enjoy the fun of the experience. For me, TV dinners weren’t really about the contents of the box. They were about the fun of doing something different with my dad—maybe even actually eating in front of the TV. Too often, I can miss life’s fun if I let complaining take over.
What’s in your TV dinner life? It’s a great day for a perspective change—and maybe a trip to the frozen food aisle, just for fun.
About the Author:
Michelle Rayburn is a writer and speaker who enjoys repurposing thrift sale finds into creative decorations for home and garden. She also loves finding gems in the trashy stuff of life. She is the author of The Repurposed and Upcycled Life: When God Turns Trash to Treasure. www.michellerayburn.com
Where Does that Grin Come From?
by Kathy Carlton Willis
I’m often asked, “How can you keep grinning despite the challenges in your life? It has nothing to do with me. It has to do with the God in whom I put my trust. Knowing “He’s got this” helps me carry on (in hope) rather than to carry on (complain)!
Grinning instead of grimacing comes from the discipline of thinking on glorious victorious thoughts outside the current stinky situation.
First I get my imaginary lariat out and wrangle those negative thoughts that attempt to defeat me.
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5 ESV)
Once I evict those destructive thoughts, I fill the void with healthful and helpful thoughts. Thoughts that line up with the mind of Christ.
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. …Then the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8b-9 NLT)
If I practice this passage in Philippians, it might look something like this. I’m going to fix my thoughts on what is:
- True: I remember the extreme way God answered my prayer to provide for our family.
- Honorable: I’m blown away by the way that writer stays humble when others try to put her on a pedestal.
- Right: I respect the decision this politician made to choose an unpopular but godly path.
- Pure: How precious the gift of life is when I see photos of the much prayed for Lyla.
- Lovely: How beautiful are the wildflowers dressing up that field.
- Admirable: I see integrity in the choice Russ made to not malign a wrongdoer.
- Excellent: I respect how she endures through her weight-training routine.
- Worthy of praise: God’s faithfulness is something I can count on.
Are you having a hard time grinning this week? What will your fix list look like?
About the Author:
God’s Grin Gal, Kathy Carlton Willis, shines the light on what holds you back so you can grow. She’s a popular speaker and writer’s coach. Read her book, Grin with Grace, or find more information at: http://www.kathycarltonwillis.com/.
A Child’s Life of Christ: STAR SONG
Storybook #1 in Series THEY MET JESUS
It is September and time to think about school. If you home school your children, this series would be perfect for you. If you are a grandmother, you could keep a set in your home for when the young ones come to spend the night.
These story books have the same covers as the grown-up books. The type is much larger and more lively. Each chapter has a good work suggestion for the child.
Book 1 is entirely the Christmas story with Mary Joseph, the shepherds, the wise men, and everyone else. Here is a sample from chapter one.
1 ~ MARY
Mary was a teenager who loved little children just like you, and grownups just like those who live in your home. She also loved God.
People didn’t have refrigerators back then. So, every morning Mary walked to the market to buy groceries so she could help her mother fix meals for the family.
But sometimes when she did, she saw people walking with canes because their legs hurt, or people coughing because they had a cold.
Sometimes she saw children fighting each other or grownups arguing.
Sometimes she saw foreign soldiers who controlled her country. They wore weapons at their side. Sometimes they took people to jail and made them very sad.
It bothered Mary that bad things sometimes happened to people. But she knew she couldn’t do anything about it because she was too young.
So Mary prayed that God would do something about it. God made the world and all little children and grownups. He loved everyone, so he could help.
One day when Mary was alone, an angel suddenly appeared to her. His name was Gabriel. Can you say Gabriel? He was smiling.
Gabriel had wonderful news for her. She was going to have a baby ~ God’s own Son whom he was sending to live with us. Then God’s Son could help us.
Mary was to name this baby JESUS. He would start a new kingdom of peace that everyone who wanted to could live in.
This kingdom would start on earth. But some day everyone in his kingdom would be taken to heaven to live forever with God himself. Then there would be no more suffering and sadness.
Mary had always thought she was too young to help people. She found out she could help after all through her baby by taking good care of him.
THINK & DO
- Every boy and girl can help others, no matter how young they are. Is there something you can do today to help someone who is hurting in their mind or their body?
You will make them smile. You will make God smile. You, too, will smile.
Purchase Star Song: A Child’s Life of Christ