Book Review: The Relationship Project

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It’s been awhile since I’ve done an Off the Shelf book review for Beacon Hill Press.  Today I am happy to be sharing The Relationship Project by Bill Strom with you.  As always, my views are my own, and the only compensation I received was the book itself!

When this book arrived, I was intrigued right away.  I love the subtitle: Moving from “You and Me” to We.  I enjoy books that offer insights on marriage, especially from a Christian worldview.  And I like books that are interactive, which including “project” in the title seemed to imply.
I was imagining that this would be a book to read with my husband, something we could work on together.  We both agree that a good relationship takes work and we are committed to working on ours!  But here’s where the book was different from what I was expecting.  And I learned that pretty quickly, in the preface in fact:  ” . . . if you picked up this book to figure out how you can save your relationship, or fix a friend, put it down . . . the more important goal is to understand that we have our own heart work to do, our own self project.”    That’s not to say that you couldn’t read this in tandem with a spouse, but the point–and it’s a good point in general, is it not?–is that you are to work on yourself,  not on your partner!
That’s just the start of how this book is different from other relationship books you may have read, particularly if you’ve been reading mainly secular books.  In those books, you’ll learn about contracts and commitments–and those are discussed in this book too–but the focus here is on covenant relationships, which are “motivated by unconditional love and grace . . . not driven by the pursuit of personal happiness.”  It’s vocabulary I’d heard before, but here it is explained well and illustrated by clear examples.
The author shares from his own marriage, and the tone of the book is informal, making reading it a bit like listening to the good advice of a friend.  The Relationship Project is full of examples–stories of real people, their relationships and struggles.  There are illustrative quotations–and relationship stories–from Scripture as well.  There are several self-assessments along the way–I love those!  And there are questions for reflection.  In short, this is a book that asks you not just to read it, but to engage with it.
 

What We're Reading Wednesday: The What-I-SHOULD-Be-Reading Edition

what we're reading
Participating in What We’re Reading Wednesday has shown me how boring I am.  Every week the other contributors post reviews of intellectual or inspirational reads, and I just keep on reading the same old stuff.  Which is why I skipped last week, because I figured y’all were tired of hearing about Patricia Cornwell.
So to spice things up a bit, this week I will tell you what I SHOULD be reading, and if all goes according to plan in a few weeks I should be able to tell you a little more about the books below.
the panther

OK, y’all, I have zero interest in reading this book.  But Nelson DeMille is a favorite of my next-door-neighbor, who runs the book club, so this is what we are reading for Monday.  It’s about a million pages long, and I haven’t started it yet.  But that doesn’t matter because this is a cool book club and if I don’t read it I’ll look it up in Wikipedia or something so I can throw out a few intelligent-sounding comments before I drink too many glasses of wine.  Seriously, we’ve already read one of his books, and I didn’t hate it; it’s just not my cup of tea.  But no one liked the one book I’ve had us read so far, so I will just be good and quiet and do what I am told.

I just got this one in the mail from Beacon Hill Press.  I’m an official Off-the-Shelf blogger for them, which means I get free books to write reviews about.  I have 90 days to read and write, but will probably try to do it this week.  I’m excited about this one!


I’m really excited to read and review this one, since I have three adult children in various stages of launching.  This is another Beacon Hill Press offering.
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Everybody has been talking about this Paleo thing for awhile now.  So I’m excited to read this and to see how its advice conforms with the changes I’ve already made to my diet.  I’m getting my copy of this through Blogging for Books, a new venture for me.
Patricia_Cornwell_-_Black_Notice

Finally, here is what I am ACTUALLY reading. 🙂  I continue to make my way through Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series, in chronological order.  Having read them all and knowing what comes later adds another layer to the experience.  Without giving anything away, this one in particular, which largely focuses on Kay’s grief over the gruesome murder of her lover, Benton Wesley, is hard to see in the same light now that I know the eventual resolution of this story arc.
Reading about Scarpetta always puts me in the mood for good food, since she is an Italian gourmet cook.  I had meant to check out the following for awhile, and had one of those late-night Amazon moments, found they were cheap, and now they are on their way to me.


I’m not a huge cookbook person–I cook mostly out of my head–but I’m going to enjoy these because the first weaves in a story about the characters and the second showcases recipes that are actually mentioned in the books.
For more of what people are reading, check out the linkup at Housewife Spice!
[UPDATE:  I never did read some of these.]

The Saddest Words

IfOnly_BlogTourBanner
Hi, y’all, and welcome to the final day (saving the best for last and all that!) if the If Only Blog Tour.  In my capacity as an Off The Shelf Blogger for Beacon Hill Press, I’ve been given the opportunity to read If Only: Letting Go of Regret by Michelle Van Loon.  (My advance copy was my only compensation, and, as always, my opinion is my own.)  This time, instead of reviewing the book, I was asked to write a personal reflection on regret.
Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, “It might have been.”
~ John Greenleaf Whittier
In Madeleine L’Engle’s A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Charles Wallace Murry is given the responsibility, with the help of  a time traveling unicorn, of saving the world from imminent nuclear destruction by finding and changing the right “Might Have Been” in the past.  Charles succeeds, and the world is saved.  The rest of us aren’t so lucky.
Because all of our lives are littered with “might have beens.”  Whether for good or ill, every choice made excludes all the other possible choices.  Everything we do–or leave undone–has repercussions.  In If Only, Michelle Van Loon writes of how regrets can divide our hearts, trap us in the past, and damage our relationships with God and with one another.
Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention . . . That’s the first thing that comes into my mind when I try to reflect on my personal experience with regret, but I’m not sure whether it’s true or just a comforting story I’m telling myself.  Van Loon writes of people who have submerged their regrets so deeply that they don’t even realize the damage these unresolved feelings are causing in their current lives.
Most of the time I tell myself that there is no point in regret, because I can’t really know what would have happened if I had done things differently.  Like those well-meaning time travelers in just about every book or movie you’ve ever seen on the topic, what if I had made things worse by doing (or not doing) whatever it was?  Is wishing I could go back and change things not a rejection of everything good that has happened since?
I think about our house burning down.  If only I had insisted on having a professional deal with the electrical box situation instead of the handyman employed by our landlord (not that it ever occurred to me at the time).  Then the box wouldn’t have exploded and the house wouldn’t have burned down and I would still have all my things.  But what about the lessons and the love and the new home and new friends we have now?  And who’s to say that if we had stayed in that house, we might not have died in a car crash on the way home one night?  This is why it’s a good thing that we are not God and that time travel remains the stuff of science fiction.
If only I hadn’t wasted so much time and energy on sorting and storing all the things that I had.  If only I hadn’t gotten so upset over various things getting broken or ruined by floods in the basement or careless children.  But I couldn’t have known what was going to happen–all I can do is try to be better going forward.  Which is definitely one of Van Loon’s points–that our regrets can be a tool for us now if we acknowledge them and own them instead of burying them.  And her book supplies tools to do that, with discussion/reflection questions, scripture, and prayer.
Where she really got me was when she started talking about her experience as a parent of grown children: “My empty nest echoed with the sound of regret.”  My nest is still quite full (will any of them EVER leave?), [edit: two are gone now, one quite far away.] but three of my babies are legal adults.  Without implying that there is anything seriously wrong with any of them–don’t get me wrong!–of course they have their struggles and I cannot help but think there were things I should have done differently.  I can’t help but remember how far short I have fallen–and continue to fall–of the perfect mother I just knew I was going to be.  I regret deeply–I can’t tell you how much–that I didn’t enjoy them enough when they were little.  I never heard that saying “The days are long but the years are short” until my kids were already big.  I wish I had.  It won’t do any good for me to tell those of you who still have little kids that they will be grown up before you know it but it is true.
So I guess that is a pretty typical regret to have with kids who are almost but not quite launched, but it’s the one I am really struggling with right now, and I hope that going through some of the reflections in If Only will help me.
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Would you like to know more about Michelle Van Loon?  Her website is here.
Michelle
For more on If Only, please visit the other stops on the Blog Tour: Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4  Day 5 Day 6 Day 7 Day 8 Day 9 Day 10 Day 11 Day 12 Day 13 Day 14 Day 15