Monday, February 20

Making Marriage Beautiful: A Book Review

The title of Chapter 1 (posed as a question) in Dorothy Littell Greco's new book, Making Marriage Beautiful, says it all:

Marriage Will Change You: What Do you Want That Change to Look Like? 

This is a convicting question, and I'm not sure that the answer is immediately clear for many of us. Of course marriage changes us, but often those changes result in division and tension in our relationships, rather than deeper connectedness and reconciliation. 

So, how can we create positive change and stronger marriages? Reading Making Marriage Beautiful is a good place to start.

Dorothy is a talented and honest writer. She is genuinely self-aware and willing to share with her readers what the difficult bits of her marriage have been. You often laugh along with her as she shares stories about things like "not putting extra spaghetti sauce on the table" when she and Christopher have one of their first dinner parties-- a choice that led to a huge argument early on in their marriage. 

We laugh genuinely with her because as ridiculous as it sounds, we all know that it's often the smallest things that lead to the biggest fights. We also know, it's never just about the 'spaghetti sauce', so to speak. 

So, what is at the root of those arguments? If we can gracefully and humbly dig deeper, reconciliation and unity can be the outcome rather than ongoing divisiveness. In this particular case, it was differing cultural "norms" that both Christopher and Dorothy carried into their marriage. While neither "norm" was "right" or "wrong", our pride can often let these small issues become big problems.  

Throughout the book, Dorothy humbly and with great wisdom, digs into important issues that impact our marriages: Things like gender expectations, disappointments and anger, addictions, confession, forgiveness, choosing joy, and so much more. She offers a good balance of scripture (both convicting and encouraging) and personal story. She also includes one marriage story, outside of her own, to each chapter to help reader's connect to whatever the topic of that chapter is. 

I happened to have the privilege of spending some time with  Dorothy and her husband Christopher at a church in the Boston area many years ago. They are a great couple, who love Jesus, and are passionate about ministry and helping other people in their journeys towards healing. This book was certainly born out of that genuine and authentic passion. 

While there are plenty of "fluffy" marriage and self-help books out there, this is not one of them. Many of the chapters prompted me to really take a look at the "baggage" I carried into my own marriage simply from my upbringing, and several unhealthy patterns I saw modeled in my parent's marriage. While none of this is to cast blame (my parents were living out of their own woundedness brought on by their own families of origin), the book encouraged me to take an honest  look at these things in an effort to move more towards God's design for marriage, and in effect establish a new and healthier legacy for my own children. 

Amen to that, right?! 

So, if you're ready to answer that question, "What do you want that 'change' to look like?", grab this book and dive in. You won't walk away, unchanged. I promise. 

Here are a few (of many!) underlined quotes from my first reading of this book.  It is a book I'll put on the bookshelf in our office and refer back to for years to come. 

"Regardless of how we got our scars and how they manifest, they don't magically disappear when we get married. We bring all of who we are into our marital covenants: our gifts, talents, and strengths but also our weaknesses, limitations and brokenness. Our spouses are typically the first people who have gotten close enough to notice those scars."    (Chapter 2, "Not Your Mother's Lasagna") 
"Maybe I was withholding a key detail when I wrote that joy is a gift from God. Receiving a gift implies opening up our hands and accepting what's being offered. Living in joy requires something from us: we must push back against the darkness through worship, gratitude, and prayer."      (Chapter 9, "Choosing Joy") 
"Being on the receiving end of sacrificial love is amazing. However, as many of you know, giving sacrificial love can expose our limitations like nothing else. In order to succeed for the long haul, we need grace, mercy, patience, humor, shared mission and intimacy."      (Chapter 11, "Made Beautiful") 

To learn more about Dorothy and her book, Making Marriage Beautiful, check out her website at:

About the Author: 

Dorothy Greco and her husband, Christopher, have spent their entire twenty-five-year marriage helping men and women create and sustain healthy marriages. They have served numerous churches in the Greater Boston area for thirty years. Dorothy's writing has been featured in "Relevant Magazine," "Christianity Today," "Sojourners," and "Her.meneutics." She is a regular contributor for "Gifted for Leadership," "Today's Christian Woman," and "Start Marriage Right." The Grecos have three sons and live near Boston.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through the Litfuse Blogger program. There was no requirement for a positive review and the views expressed are my own.

Saturday, February 18

Control Girl: A Book Review and Giveaway!

Controlling? Me? No…definitely not!

Of all the words I might use to describe myself at times (sensitive, anxious, sometimes impatient) “controlling” would not be a word that fell into the list. Most of the time, anyways. 

However, after recently reading Control Girl, by Shannon Popkin my eyes have been open to the many subtle, and sometimes not so subtle ways, I have fallen into the control trap in an effort to manage circumstances in my life. 

The moment I read the description of the book and watched one of Popkin’s Facebook videos, I knew I had something to learn from her story.  The way she effectively grounds her own experiences with substantive evidence from seven Biblical women who had control “issues” themselves (Eve, Sarah, Hagar, Rebekah, Leah, Rachel and Miriam). 

As an aside, I had the privilege of meeting Shannon at the Breathe Christian Writer's Conference last October. She was sweet, nurturing, and spent a few minutes authentically listen to me as I talked about the bazillion writing ideas that I'd love to pursue, but how it's hard to find time to pursue many of them during these years of stay at home motherhood. She was so kind and encouraged me to continue persevering-- that it is a worthy call to be a writer, but an even worthier one to be a mother. I left the conversation with nothing but respect and admiration for her as a Christian woman, mother and writer herself. I knew when her book came out I wanted to be one of the first to read it! 

Truthfully, from that meeting, I would not have guessed that her book would be about how control issues show up in women's lives, but I suppose that is part of the point. Sometimes they are subtle and unrecognizable unless we take an honest look at ourselves in the mirror, or consider our circumstances through the lens of some else's story. That is what this book does so well. 

The reality is that while many of us do not intend to be controlling, when our daily circumstances start tipping out of “control” for whatever reason (and they will!)—sick kids, differing opinions with our husbands, a messy house (messes not made by you!), parent-child tensions between your own children, or sometimes your adult parents—our flesh begins to concoct all sorts of ways to pull things back together…to get things back on track. We women are good at putting a plan in place when any of these things (and many others!) start to feel like they need fixing! 

And, while problem solving is good, especially when done with God, that’s not often where we start. We often start, in the heat of the moment, by plotting our own “take control” actions inspired by our own angry, frustrated, discouraged or anxious hearts.

If I’ve learned one incredibly important thing in my time as an adult, in my season of mothering, in my role as a wife—it’s that planning to do anything out of a place of fear, anxiety, discouragement, or even just being plain tired—is never, EVER a good idea…and, quite frankly, usually leads to plenty of bad ideas! 

So, as we learn to pause, and to not react or “manage” out of our frustrations, what is the next step?
It’s God, of course. Taking our “stuff” to him. Laying it out in prayer and patiently waiting for a response.

In the book Popkin says, “As we try to control things we can’t control, we tend to lose control of the one things we can—ourselves. God invites us to reverse the process…”

Several pages later, she goes on to say (and I LOVE this!): 
“Some mornings, I wake up with agonizing Control Girl regret, then I trip back into the same rutted-out behavior even before making breakfast…The Bible not only instructs us to stop our sinful habits, but also says we must start doing the opposite, correct things. So, to curb greediness, we practice generosity. To reverse selfishness, we practice putting others first. And to overturn a pattern of control, we practice surrender.
Surrender is counterintuitive to a Control Girl. We have a natural posture of holding on to control rather than releasing it to God. In order to reverse our natural bent, we have to cultivate a new demeanor toward God: surrender.”

I love that word…surrender.

Well, the truth is, I love the idea of surrender. The actual act of following through is sometimes another thing all together.

I encourage you to pick up a copy of this book and learn a little bit about surrender, too. You won't be disappointed. 

The book is laid out in 38 lessons, making it easy to read and digest. Each lesson starts with a suggested scripture reading, offers insight into the Biblical story, shares personal lessons, and ends with suggestions for further scripture reading, some questions and a final mediation. 

The book would work well as a daily devotional, particularly for busy moms wanting some depth of scripture and a structured lesson to focus their thoughts for the day.  

Shannon's publisher and publicity group are currently offering a giveaway package with some super cute stuff. Click on this link to read more about the giveaway (which ends on 2/21!!). 


Shannon Popkin is a wife and mom, a speaker and teacher, and a leader of small group studies. She’s been published by “Family Fun,” “MOMsense,” “Focus on the Family Magazine,” and other outlets. She is a contributing blogger for True and has blogged for several years at “Control Girl” is her first book.
Find out more about Shannon at

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through the Litfuse Blogger program. There was no requirement for a positive review and the views expressed are my own.

P.S. I don't usually post book reviews back to back, but I happen to have another one coming for you on Monday! 

If you want to hear more about the book Making Marriage Beautiful (another fabulous book by a writer I happened to go to church with in Boston years ago!), stop back on Monday. Or, hop over to Dorothy's website to read about it now!