Books

21 Years Later. Marriage = Work.

 

I used to get nervous (on behalf of the author) when several books on the same theme released around the same time, as if the publishers didn’t know this was going to happen. As if the other network broke the news first and one reporter would receive an award while the other might lose her job. Now, I realize that this is a sign of the Divine. It’s a good thing. We should take notice. God is trying to get our attention. When several authors start writing about similar things and publishers start publishing, we should wake up because the Spirit is moving. He’s moving in and through his people the way he used to do with his prophets. And are artists not prophets? Is it not the role of artists to protest and warn, correct and critique, exhort and instruct? To make visible the invisible. To make meaning of all the pieces? When writers start writing about similar things, the Spirit of God is trying to make visible the invisible. He’s using the voices of his author-artists to make meaning for us.

So in the last few months, as 3 Christian women have released books about marriage, I’ve paid attention. I’ve read them all. And I’ve tried to discern what the Spirit might be saying, particularly considering how different they are in theology, practice, and voice. I’ve read them as a married person and a friend of married persons and the wife of a marriage counselor. I’ve considered who I might give which book to and why and what God had for me in each one and why.

My big conclusion is that the Spirit is reaffirming the covenant of marriage while also affirming how difficult the relationship is. Yeah, it’s hard, but stick with it because it’s the way I intend to bring you healing, bless your community, make you more like me, and you get the picture. Don’t trivialize this commitment. Don’t be so quick to throw in the towel. Don’t settle for less than what it could really be, but be willing to work (hard) to get there.

Making Marriage Beautiful by Dorothy Littell Greco is written by a writer, photographer, mother of 3 young adult men, and wife of 25 years. Greco’s writing is a mix of personal anecdote, stories from a diverse set of marriages, and instruction on how to allow marriage to change you so that your marriage will become more beautiful. Because she’s a friend, let me share her words: “Making Marriage Beautiful is truly unlike many other marriage books. First, it’s written by a woman to both men and women. This is almost unheard of. Adding Christopher’s words and the eight other husbands ensures that men are well represented. Second, the book contains very vulnerable, real-life stories. Most authors who write about marriage tend not to be as honest as Christopher and I chose to be. I think readers will easily engage and trust me because I’m choosing to trust them. Finally, I refuse to depend upon cliches or formulas. There’s no chapter titled, Ten Steps to a Perfect Marriage! Marriage and transformation is a process and my goal in writing this book is to help men and women navigate that process well. For the long haul.”

Very Married by Katherine Willis Pershey is a memoir of marriage written by a minister, mother of two young kids, and wife of 14 years. Pershey’s writing is witty and wise, crafted with authentic reflection which opens the curtain on her marriage. She does not shy away from tough reality (like her attraction to another man), but invites us in to her relationship through humor and story, so that we might embrace the hard of our own covenant. I've already passed it along to a girlfriend.

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton is also a memoir of marriage written by a controversial figure who not only announced her separation and subsequent divorce to her husband just as the book released, but has since announced her relationship to professional soccer player, Abby Wambach. One of the things that is so difficult about the announcements is that the book is essentially about walking through her pain (and Craig walking through his) to discover how to be better individuals and better spouses. It concludes with a recommitment to one another, celebrating the covenant of marriage while affirming its challenges. Admittedly, it’s a quick devour as her writing style is captivating and the way she tackles each of their responses to pain is beautiful. But, what is the Spirit saying to us through her book? Why did he move in her to write about covenant and pain, but then leave us all feeling like the message is disingenuous? I’m not sure what to do with this one. For now, it remains on the shelf. I’m reluctant to pass it on.

Pre-Order your copy today
Pre-Order your copy today

If my therapist husband were to ask which one of these he should hand to a couple, I would suggest Making Marriage Beautiful. Besides resting in her orthodox view of the marriage covenant, I have confidence men and women can both read it and relate to Dorothy’s voice and instruction. Not only does she include the male voice, but she includes voices from a wide range of cultural and ethnic backgrounds. The reader can tell she speaks not only from personal lived experience, but also from 20 years of counseling couples through similar transformative growth.

The Spirit is making meaning of marriage in these days of trivializing this covenantal bond. For those of us committed to a spouse for the long haul, maybe pick up Dorothy’s book this year and invest in change for the sake of beautiful.

 

The Book of Womanhood. It exists!

 
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Women! Are you like me and doubted if it was possible to address the bulk of what we face as Christian women without alienating one end of the spectrum or the other? Did you wonder if there was a framework that could encompass, for example, the realities of our bodies or friendships in a deeply spiritual, yet tangible way? Fellow Redbud, Amy Davis Abdallah, PhD, has crafted such a "manual." It is a comprehensive exhortation to women to live fully into who we were created to be.

Now, here's the funny thing. As I struggled to design a yearlong rites of passage journey for my tween, one of my early thoughts was to organize it the same way Amy has: Relationship to Self, God, Others, and Creation. Some of my original scratch pads contain these wandering thoughts. In grad school, I learned that these 4 categories make up Biblical Shalom - the true meaning of peace.  I decided to go a different route, and I'm so glad I did! I could not have addressed them in the same beautiful and powerful way as Amy.

One of the things I appreciate about The Book of Womanhood is its lack of judgement. Topics such as "Femininity and God" and "Sexy Self-Care" could be rife with conflict, but are handled in a gentle, accessible manner. Another thing I wholeheartedly agree with is the journey mindset which invites the full spectrum of women to contribute and receive. Amy writes, "A rite of passage invites 'younger sisters' to journey together with 'older sisters' who offer wisdom and experience and are still continually growing."

This was written for college women at the college where Amy teaches and seems entirely appropriate for that audience and older. As I continue (6 more weeks!) to usher my own tween through an initial transition from girl to woman, there are solid principles I find helpful even if I won't cover them in detail with her. The only thing missing is a detailed plan of how the college women walked through this material over the course of the year. I want details!

So here's the cool thing women: for ONE WEEK, Wipf & Stock Publishers will offer 40% off The Book of Womanhood. Use the Discount Code "WOMAN" at check out. Don't miss this amazing opportunity to be affirmed and exhorted in your unique design as a woman.

 

Overcomer: Breaking Down the Walls of Shame and Rebuilding Your Soul with Aubrey Sampson

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Shame is a new word to me. Oh, I've been experiencing it for years, but have only named it in the last few months. We've been getting acquainted as I realize what a constant companion it has been for much of my life. Brene Brown has made this word famous, of course, but I love what Aubrey Sampson, fellow Redbud, does with it in Overcomer. Her book comes out today and I couldn't be more happy to have her share with us here. Stay tuned for my personal shame journey on Friday. ****************************************

Too many women have allowed shame to condemn and confine them for far too long. If you’re ready to break free, regardless of the shame experience that is holding you back, Aubrey Sampson--a pastor’s wife and an advocate for at risk women—invites you, like her, to be an overcomer. Sampson courageously shares her own history with shame, ranging from sexual assault to everyday imperfections and laughable mistakes. But it doesn’t end there.

Sampson identifies seven major lies of shame, such as, “I cannot experience freedom from shame,” “My past is unsalvageable,” and “Shame is experienced only in traumatic situations.”

Written with a strong biblical theology and a humorous authenticity, Overcomer equips readers with the spiritual understanding to overcome shame.

Through her personal experiences and true-life stories shared by women of all ages, Sampson deals directly with the shame that comes from the humbling moments in life, as well as from the tragic—sexual abuse, eating disorders, addiction, abandonment, and more. Then she empowers women to transform their life’s story into ministry, creating ripple effects of hope and healing that can change the world.

Written for any woman whose self-worth has been stolen, Overcomer gives you the courage to kick down the walls of shame and embrace freedom and a future in Christ.

Aubrey Shame

AUBREY, CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT SHAME?

Shame encompasses such a wide range of emotions it can be difficult to define. Perhaps the simplest way to understand it is to think back on a moment when you experienced it. You may have felt embarrassment, discomfort, or self-consciousness (I was a middle schooler with pink and purple braces and bangs up to the clouds, so yeah, I know self-consciousness!). Shame can also express itself in much weightier emotions, such as when we feel humiliated, inadequate, injured, or abused. Another difficulty with shame is that so many of us live under the weight of it without realizing it because we’ve been conditioned by culture and life experience to accept that feeling as normal. Shame is simply always there; it’s that familiar yet profound feeling that we don’t measure up.

Add to all of that, the pressure in our Christian culture to operate above reproach all the time, we can feel ashamed when we make even the tiniest of mistakes. We may even believe that if we aren’t shaming ourselves, we’re in danger of becoming prideful. So we beat ourselves up as the “better,” more Christlike option. It’s a vicious cycle. At its core, an identity of shame is the belief that, in whole or in part, I am not enough.

Throughout Overcomer, I share my own history of “not-enoughness,” along with stories from others who’ve overcome shame in their lives— ranging from situations of abuse to struggles with body image and eating, to everyday laughable imperfections.

The ultimate message of Overcomer is this: in spite of the overwhelming nature of shame, there is good news. The promise of Scripture is that when we look to Jesus, our shame is transformed into sparkling, beaming joy (Psalm 34:5). There may be moments in life when we feel condemned, but when our identity is centered in Christ, we can discard the dark covering of shame and rise in radiance.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aubrey Sampson is passionate about empowering women of all ages to experience freedom from shame. An author, speaker, church planter, and member of the Redbud Writers Guild, Aubrey lives and ministers in the Chicagoland area with her husband, Kevin and three young sons. Connect with Aubrey at www.aubreysampson.com and @aubsamp.

Overcomer: Breaking Down the Walls of Shame and Rebuilding your Soul, www.aubreysampson.com, is available TODAY on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Christian Books and will be available wherever books are sold.

Books I'm Reading This Month (#2)

Books-1 Web Last month's list was a huge success so I guess I'll continue to let you peruse my side table. In fact, I'll take a pic of it for you!

Side TableYes, yes, there are lots of books on there! This list is just what I'm finishing, not including what I spot read.

Some have asked when I have time to read. As an encouragement to crazy ones and young parents, I will say I've learned to read in the margins. This is how I made it through grad school with a toddler and two little kids: book in one hand, hair brush or soup ladle in the other, or other arm draped around a kid on the couch as they watched PBS. Now it's the carpool lines or in transit moments, book always in the seat next to me: never leave home without one!

This Month's List:

1. Notes from a blue bike Notes From a Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenreider. Two things: It starts in Turkey and the title is awesome. Had to read it. Tsh writes of how life in Turkey helped her identify the style of living she wanted for her family and goes about addressing the main categories they deemed most valuable: education, travel, food, work, and entertainment. She is the author of the popular blog, The Art of Simple and in Blue Bike, she writes about the decisions she's made to be intentional about living the life she wants. Really delightful read!

Runaway Girl 2. Runaway Girl: Escaping Life on the Streets by Carissa Phelps. Because I love survivor memoirs and this was professional development. Kudos to Phelps for working through the trauma of her life on the run and doing something good with it. But as much as this was Carissa's story, it was a call to those of us who desire to "do good" or "help." The people who intersected her life at Juvenile Hall or in the alternative school were heroes in their own right, helping shape the narrative of change.

 

unquiet time 3. Unquiet Time by Heather Caliri. Because Heather is a new friend and fellow Redbud and I like what she's writing about over on her blog. With a similar theme to the next book, Heather writes of post-perfectionist faith. This hand-lettered devotional is whimsical with thought-provoking quotes and artistic prompts. I am thoroughly enjoying it.

 

When We Were on Fire 4. When We Were on Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love and Starting Over by Addie Zierman.  Addie is every evangelical believer who came to faith in the 90's. Riddled with humor and pain because it is so vividly true, she captures the emotional consequences of being entirely consumed by a sub-culture. I appreciate that she never gives up on God, nor questions Him as much as she does other believers, evangelical culture, and some of the harmful byproducts.

 

Fine balance5. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. Because I need fiction and a friend thought I would like it upon learning I was briefly a Russian Lit major in college. Just started this one. My Thanksgiving read. Really great character development so far.

 

Really, I would be happy if I lived in a bookstore. I would sleep in a mound of stuffed animals, live off of scones and coffee, and spend the day devouring an aisle before I moved on to the next. How about you? What are you reading?