Book Club

Letters to My Daughters by Barbara Rainey

Thoughts from Letters to My Daughters

This special hardcover book is as beautiful in appearance as it is in content. Filled with wisdom and richness on every page, Letters to My Daughter: the Art of Being a Wife is a must-read for anyone endeavoring to lead an abundant wedded life. Below are the posts from our 2016 series covering this treasured volume. While there are a few thoughts for most chapters, this series focuses on providing thought-provoking, discussion-sparking questions for personal or small group use. Enjoy.

Resources mentioned in our Letters to My Daughters series:

 

Learn the Art of Being a Wife

originally posted September 18, 2016

    What a wonderful year of reading, learning, and growing this has been! Thank you for being a very special part of our book club’s inaugural season. Words cannot express how grateful I am to have met you and to have read life-changing books together! 

     As we head into the last few months of 2016, I am thrilled to announce our final book club selection for the year: Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife by Barbara Rainey.

     In Fervent (our very first book club selection) author and speaker Priscilla Shirer encouraged us to see our marriages as pictures of the gospel. I love how Shirer puts it in Chapter 6 (Your Family). 

    “All of our marriages and families are a huge deal…because each one is a billboard for the eternal, unchangeable love story between God and humankind.” 

     Whether you are married, hope to be, or once were, The Art of Being a Wife will be a blessing to you. Going beyond the romantic, it delves into building beauty into all of our family relationships, taking into account all of the giftings God has brought together and encouraging readers to live with grace and gratitude. What wonderful preparation for the holiday season ahead! 

     For our final book of the year, I am planning something very special- a live discussion group! As you may know, we have a Facebook page now for our book club and have held a couple of small live events there. Starting on Monday, September 26, I will be holding live weekly discussions on our page as we read The Art of Being a Wife

Note: If you purchase a copy of our new book club selection through any of the links in this post, you’ll be helping to support our efforts to equip the body of Christ. Thank you

Affiliate Disclosure.

 

Marriage as a Masterpiece

originally posted September 19, 2016

“I invite you, any woman who wants to create beauty in her marriage, to read these letters and see if my journey might provide for you courage and hope.” -Barbara Rainey

     As you read our newest book selection, Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife, use the following questions to help you dig deeper. They are great discussion starters and can be used either personally or with your small group. 

Study ?’s for Week One:

1.) Barbara Rainey wrote a series of letters to her soon-to-be daughter-in-law (by request) in the weeks leading up to the wedding. Her decades of marriage had painted a picture of what Marsha Kay wanted for her own wedded life. Thinking of those around you now and from your past, who has been a role model for your marriage (or future marriage)?

2.) As the Preface opens, Rainey expresses a beautiful concept: that of women in fellowship being sources of strength and answers for one another. She states, “Across the landscape of time, women have depended on other women for answers to the questions we all face.” Husbands, children, work, worth, cooking, cleaning, friendships, finances, fears, and failures: these are the topics Rainey specifically mentions as areas where women are seeking answers.

     What are the areas of life in which you find yourself needing answers? To whom (or what) do you go to find the guidance you need? Are there any areas for which other women do or could come to you for wise counsel? Take a moment to list the areas where you have gained expertise or experience. Then separately list the areas where questions often cause you to seek out or long for help.

3.) Chapter One describes marriage as a masterpiece. Using the massive painting Golden Pine as an illustration, Rainey points out several similarities to marriage, What did you see and think of when first looking at Makoto Fujimura’s “handmade” and “labor-intensive” masterpiece? As you read the author’s insights, did your opinion of the painting change?

 4.) “God has planted marriage in every culture…” (p. 21) There are many differences among the various people groups around the world. Yet there are also many fundamental things that are the same. The concept of marriage, an unbreakable, family-forming union between man and woman, is one of those points of commonality. Why do you think this is so?

5.) As the first chapter closes, Rainey makes two profound statements: 1. “…admiring a beautifully mature marriage makes us want to know both the couple and the Creator” and 2. “…that is the eternal purpose for marriage, making Him known.” Who are some of the people whose marriages you admire? Why? How can we make God known by the way we walk out our married lives?

Note: Author Barbara Rainey did a series of interviews you may enjoy discussing the book with Nancy DeMoss. They are roughly a half hour, perfect for watching during a lunch break. Click here for Part 1 :)

Here's a quick recap:

•We’ll be reading a chapter a week starting Monday, September 26, 2016.

•We’ll be meeting on Facebook each week at 7:30 pm Central to discuss the book, marriage, life, and experiences. 

•I’ll be emailing study guide questions for each week on Tuesdays and a reminder on Mondays.

•We’ll hold a launch party on Monday, September 26, and a Closing Celebration on Monday, November 21, on Facebook.

•You are welcome to invite friends!

•Everyone is welcome but each participant will need to join our book club’s Facebook group as well as get a book (from wherever you like).

•This group and this book discussion is being bathed in prayer. We want to sow into lives and marriages this fall, including yours!

Affiliate Disclosure.

 

Marriage as Fine Cuisine

originally posted September 26, 2016

“Choose to believe that his differences are for your good. And yours are good for him, too.” -Barbara Rainey, Letters to My Daughters, p. 30

     Gulp. You mean the annoying way he always (fill in the blank) might actually be what God is using to work on my heart? Come join us as we explore what it means to surrender to God's plan in our marriages.

Here are the study questions to ponder as you read Chapter Two.

Chapter Two Study ?’s

1.) Chapter Two opens with a comparison of two young boys “cooking” boxed mac’n’cheese with Chef Julia Child cooking and “experience.” How are these two scenarios like stages in marriage 

2.) Have you ever attempted to prepare a recipe that was beyond your skill level at the time? If so, what was the dish, and what were the problems you encountered?

3.) Barbara Rainey spends a good deal of time in this chapter discussing communication, adjustments, and timing- qualities necessary in both cooking and marriage. On page 31, she advises a “lifelong conversation” about points of misunderstanding, and on page 36 we read that poor timing can ruin both a cake and a marital conversation. What issues have you encountered in your marriage that will likely need “lifelong conversation” and how does the timing of these talks impact your relationship?

4.) “In most repeated conflicts, neither spouse is wrong. It’s simply a matter of differences…” (pg. 39). Rather than allowing differences in the way we are wired create distance, how can we honor the unique perspective God has brought into our lives through our spouse?

5.) Whether with our friends, children, co-workers, or spouses, it is all too easy to “misread the recipe” and take offense at a comment or situation without really hearing the heart of the other person. How have you seen this “misreading manifest itself in your marriage? Has this tendency changed over time? How do you handle it at this stage of marriage? 

6.) Rainey quotes Philippians 2:13 as she closes the chapter, reminding us that it is God who is at work in both husband and wife “to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Knowing God is using both of you to refine one another and mold you both into the people He designed you to be, what mindset or attitude should be held toward differences in composition? How is this especially important when considering habits or opinions we find frustrating? What is God’s attitude toward us? 

Affiliate Disclosure.

Marriage as Grand Architecture

originally posted October 5, 2016

 “I battle the enemy of my soul, the father of lies, who is out there always looking for opportunities to accuse me, deceive me, and destroy my faith. And I battle a second foe, my selfishness, which the Bible calls my flesh and which lives within me always demanding to have my way, always finding ways to be right, always justifying my position as best, always elevating myself over others.” -Barbara Rainey, p. 66 of Letters to My Daughters, the Art of Being a Wife 

    It is vital, especially in marriage, that we focus our fight on the right enemy. And that opponent is not our spouse! This week's reading from Letters to My Daughters, has the power to transform the way we see one another, pray for one another, and love one another. As you read, here are a few study questions to ponder. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Chapter 3 Study ?’s

1.) What type of architecture/structure does your marriage resemble right now? What would you like it to become?

2.) We can sometimes bristle at the Bible’s instruction to wives to be submissive to their husbands. In the opening letter of Chapter 3, Barbara Rainey reminds us that we must first and foremost surrender to Christ. How can this help us be more willingly submissive?

3.) On page 52, Rainey includes a profound word of advice from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. How could following his advice improve your marriage relationship?

4.) In “Blueprints for a Chapel,” the second letter in this chapter, Rainey describes the journey her prayer life has taken in regards to her husband. At first, she focused on his “flaws,” but this led not to a change in him, but to a loss of joy in herself. Now she prays Scripture and God’s promises over her husband, focusing on and being grateful for who he is becoming. How are these two prayer tactics different? What adjustments need to be made in your own prayer life over your spouse?

5.) “Marriage is to be like our relationship with Jesus: full of exposure for the purpose of healing,” (p. 63). Why is it important to maintain transparency in marriage? How can this sometimes be difficult?

6.) In “Construction Challenges,” the author reminds us that while conflicts are inevitable, we must recognize who the true enemy is, focusing our efforts there and letting God do whatever work needs to be done in us and in our spouse. Who or what is the true enemy in your relationship? How can you change your battle strategies to reflect that?

7.) We are to walk by faith and not by sight, following the “Architect and Interior Designer’s directions” (p. 72). What does this look like in marriage?

Note: Author Barbara Rainey did a series of interviews you may enjoy discussing the book with Nancy DeMoss. They are roughly a half hour, perfect for watching during a lunch break. Click here for Barbara’s talk #2 .

Affiliate Disclosure.

 

Marriage as Elegant Music

originally posted October 13, 2016

“Being a wife is of great importance. It is a profound and eternally meaningful assignment.” -Barbara Rainey, Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife, pg. 92

     Submissive, helper: these words often strike us as somehow less than desirable. Yet, it is precisely these two things we are designed to be. Our society values strength and independence which often leaves women who are trying to live out the directives of Scripture feeling like they are of lesser worth. Those feelings could not be farther from the truth. As author Barbara Rainey explains in Chapter 4 of Letters to My Daughters: the Art of Being a Wife, being a wife is a “profound and meaningful assignment.” After all, the Holy Spirit is also called our “Helper.” Keep this in mind as you read this week’s chapter, and use the study questions below to take a deeper dive.  

Chapter 4 Study ?’s

1.) Throughout Chapter 4, the role of wife is described as “helper.” What are some of the ways we can be helpers to our husbands?

2.) In exploring the mystery of marriage, author Barbara Rainey expounds upon the original marriage: that of Adam and Eve. What can we learn from the creation and roles of the first couple?

3.) Sometimes in marriage a crisis (or a perceived crisis) will arise. How can the story of Esther add wisdom to our approach to these difficult situations?

4.) In the third letter of Chapter 4, Rainey talks about releasing the responsibility go teaching or training our husbands and instead letting it be and trusting “the Conductor of your marriage.” What opportunities have you had to practice this concept in your relationship?

5.) In closing the chapter, the author returns to the idea of the wife being a helper. How does knowing the Holy Spirit is also called our “Helper” impact the way you see your role as wife?

 

Affiliate Disclosure.

 

Marriage as Beautiful Dancing

originally posted October 19, 2016

“Marriage has a pattern that was divinely designed for our good and His glory. When we trust the Choreographer, we move with greater freedom, fulfillment, and beauty. And it is very good.”-Barbara Rainey, pg. 133, Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife

     Sometimes dancing backwards is tough. We know our partner is leading based on his positioning to see all of the obstacles ahead. Yet somehow, trusting someone else to steer into the unknown is a daunting task. 

     Especially when that someone is a human being, capable of making mistakes. Mistakes we’ve witnessed. Errors in judgement we may still be holding onto in the back of our minds, even though we know he is still growing into the leader God has called him to be and deserves all the grace God has given to us time and time again.

     It’s like that game where one partner is blindfolded and the other has to lead them safely through an obstacle course. Yeah, let’s just say I always volunteered to be the one who did the guiding.

     But in marriage, that divinely designed relationship orchestrated by God Himself, we don’t get to volunteer for the role we want to play. Nor do we get to switch after an allotted amount of time. Instead, He uses marriage to teach us to trust Him more fully, to let go more completely.  

     As author Barbara Rainey says in our current book club selection, “Some day it will make perfect sense. But today it is still a mystery, a mystery to be lived, not solved. Great faith is required for a woman to allow her husband to lead, and then to follow that direction” (pg. 128).

     It is this same surrender we, as the Church, the Bride of Christ, must learn to yield our will to that of our Savior. 

     I pray you are enjoying and learning from Letters to My Daughters as much as I am. To help you as you journey through this week’s chapter, use the study questions below

Chapter 5 Study ?’s

1.) Author Barbara Rainey illustrates marriage as a dance, noting the man leads while moving forward, responsible for seeing potential dangers and steering the couple clear of harm, and the woman follows while moving backwards, unable to see what lies ahead. How does this arrangement require trust from both partners

2.) “Husband and wife are a team of two, and like any athletic or dance team, we are dependent on one another functioning as designed, playing our part well, for the choreography to work beautifully” (p. 104). What is one thing about your spouse that you rely on? In what way does he rely on you

3.) Often women pray for their husbands to become the leaders of their homes, especially in spiritual matters. After reading Chapter 5, why do you believe some men are reluctant to lead at home, even though they may lead in other parts of their lives

4.) How can being submissive be a positive thing? What does it mean to be submissive?

5.) On page 114, Rainey inserts a quote from Dr. Frederick Beuchner that asserts that when a couple gives themselves away in love to each other, they each become more fully themselves. Do you agree? Why or why not

6.) In Chapter 5, Rainey tackles one of the toughest questions faced by married women: what to do if the leader of the home is steering into dangerous territory. When have you faced a situation in which you were hesitant to follow? How did you handle the sense of caution

7.) In “Advanced Lessons,” Rainey describes the “dance” that traffic appears to create when seen from above. How is this a fitting metaphor for the difference between what we see in life (stuck in the traffic) and what God sees (from the helicopter above)?

8.) At the end of each letter, the author includes bullet points with action steps. Within this chapter were many solid suggestions. Share some of your favorites.

Note: Author Barbara Rainey did a series of interviews you may enjoy discussing the book with Nancy DeMoss. They are roughly a half hour, perfect for watching during a lunch break. Click here for Barbara’s talk #3.

Affiliate Disclosure.

 

Marriage as Masterful Photography

originally posted November 6, 2016

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” -Ephesians 4:29-30

     It is said in Scripture that controlling the tongue is one of the hardest things for a person to attempt. Our words seem to leap out before we have even finished thinking them, yet they are forever impacting those who hear them. Thanks to the power of social media, our words have even longer-lasting effects to day than they did in days gone by.

     In Chapters 6 and 7 of our current book club selection, Letters to My Daughters: the Art of Being a Wife by Barbara Rainey, the author steps on some toes (though gently and for our own good) as she reminds us to tend the gardens of our marriages and to frame our husbands in the best possible (though still truthful) light by dealing with private issues in private and focusing on the very best qualities in public.

     Now, I’m not talking about the candy-coated, picture perfect, Instagram-ready images many people portray to the world. Instead, it’s the real, true beautiful qualities we are to celebrate in one another. Can you imagine how many dysfunctional family problems would melt away if gossip and negativity were suddenly removed from the equation?

     As you read these impactful chapters, use the study questions below to dive deeper. 

Study ?’s:

1.) At the close of Chapter 6, the author shares a powerful truth about fear: once exposed to the light, its power is gone. Share a time when you have seen this truth either in your life or in the life of someone close to you.

2.) In the second letter of Chapter 6, Rainey expounds on the role of women in the marriage relationship stating, “Women are designed to be the stabilizing force in the lives of men. Far from being insignificant, we are instead supremely important.” What is your reaction to this declaration? Do you agree with Rainey? Why or why not?

3.) Whether due to baggage brought into the marriage by previous hurts or whether through neglect over the years, the gardens of our marriages can become a tangle of weeds and briars, hiding the beauty of flowers and carefully selected paths and resting places. How can we return this garden to its intended glory?

4.) Christians are instructed to “bear one another’s burdens.” How does a married couple have a built-in advantage in living out this command?

5.) The opening letter in Chapter 7 is titled “Learning to Focus.” How can choice of subjects on which to focus impact a marriage? 

6.) In His Word, God often reminds believers that He will never leave us or forsake us. How is this same assurance important both to give and to receive within the context of marriage?

7.) Scripture talks about the difficulty of bridling the tongue. Author Barbara Rainey reminds readers in this chapter that “once a word is spoken it cannot be retrieved” (p. 179). Have you ever said something to or about your husband that you wish you could retract? What would you have done or said instead if you could go back and relive that moment? 

8.) Rainey also warns against “brutal honesty without regard to how it will affect another” (p. 181). Although honesty and transparency in marriage are important, we are to speak the truth in love. What does this look like in practice? Give an example (real or hypothetical) that shows how to deal with a difficult-to-deliver truth.

9.) On page 182, Rainey challenges us to grade our verbal self-control/self-restraint. When it comes to speaking about or to your husband, what grade would you give yourself? How has that score changed over your years of marriage? 

10.) “Negatives” are the final image in reverse (p. 184). What are some traits that can be seen in a  negative light which can actually be positives? What is the key to this transformation?

11.) Rainey states that her goal for her marriage is to “always believe the best about my husband, to always believe that God is not finished with him yet, and to always believe the best is yet to come.” Take a few minutes and develop your own goal concerning your focus and perspective in your marriage

Note: Author Barbara Rainey did a series of interviews you may enjoy discussing the book with Nancy DeMoss. They are roughly a half hour, perfect for watching during a lunch break. Click here for Barbara’s talk #4.

Affiliate Disclosure.

 

Marriage as Watercolor Painting

originally posted November 13, 2016

 

“Our prayers may not hurry the sun, but they will heighten our awareness to what is happening in the darkness.” -Ken Gire, The North Face of God

     Just as Jesus told His disciples that no one knows the hour of His return except God the Father, we cannot know God’s perfect timing to bring resolution to our current struggle. Yet, we are instructed to “cast all our cares on Him” and to bring our burdens to the Lord, believing without doubt that He is capable of lifting us out of the darkness into His marvelous light.

     This utterly blind faith, this total surrender, seems at times too much to ask of us. Still, He asks. What will be our response? Will we trust the One who sees the story of our lives from beginning to end or will we hold back, attempting to stand in our own strength?

     While our prayers may not speed up the answers, they do bring our senses, both spiritual and physical, to a sharpened focus, capable of noting each change even as God works in ways and places we would not otherwise see or acknowledge. As we journey through married life, there will be ups and downs. How we choose to respond will make all the difference.

     Chapter 8 of our current book club selection, Letters to My Daughters: the Art of Being a Wife by Barbara Rainey, deals with the tough times and the darker places of our marriages. As she encourages on page 214, “trust Him, knowing the hard places are sacred places if we believe.”

    Below are study questions for this week’s chapter. My prayer is that they will help you see God’s hand at work in the struggles of life and give you a renewed hope in the stretch of road that awaits.

Chapter 8 Study ?’s

1.) “Trust Him, knowing the hard places are sacred places if we will believe” (pg. 214, Letters to My Daughters, Barbara Rainey). Like learning to paint with watercolors, not everything in life or marriage is easy or perfect. How have you found the “hard places” to be “sacred places” in your journey?

2.) In Chapter 8, Rainey shares an excerpt from Ken Gire’s The North Face of God, which includes the following sentence:  “Our prayers may not hurry the sun, but they will heighten our awareness to what is happening in the darkness.”  Consider a time when you prayed and hoped diligently for a resolution to a situation. How was the focus of your faith a channel through which God heightened your awareness of His hand at work?

3.) One of this chapter’s letters focuses on our tendency to compare our marriage and family to that of others. How have you experienced this phenomenon and what did you learn from it?

4.) Which is the goal of your marriage, happiness or holiness? What are the differences between the two? How does the goal determine our response to difficult times?

5.) Proverbs 31 contains an inspiring (and a bit overwhelming) description of an “excellent wife.” Rainey describes the strongest women as those who “trust the sovereign Creator in all seasons, in all circumstances, and with all God gives.” How can trusting God in this way help us to become more like the woman held up as an example in Proverbs 31?

6.) At the opening of Chapter 8, Rainey challenges women to focus more on becoming the right person than on finding the right guy or dress or order of ceremony. How do we go about doing this, and do these efforts look different before and after marriage?

7.) As Rainey compares marriage to watercolor paintings, she highlights the difficulties as well as the rewards gained by steadfast faith and resolute commitment, ending one letter by noting that “the happy ending we long for comes on the road of suffering, not on the road of ease.” This seems counter to what society says marriage should be like. How can a happy ending be reached by a road of suffering?

8.) In Scripture, we often see miracles and divine answers appear right at the moment someone has done all they can to no avail. Share a time when you or someone you know experienced this “last minute” type of intervention in their marriage or family.

Note: Author Barbara Rainey did a series of interviews you may enjoy discussing the book with Nancy DeMoss. They are roughly a half hour, perfect for watching during a lunch break. Click here for Barbara Rainey’s talk #5.

Affiliate Disclosure.

Resources mentioned in our Letters to My Daughters series:

 

    

Click here for Part 1 of the author's series with Nancy DeMoss.  

Barbara’s talk #2 

Barbara’s talk #3

Barbara’s talk #4

Barbara's talk #5.

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