Karen Kingsbury’s beloved character Elizabeth Baxter once penned a letter to her children, in which she included her very own “Ten Secrets to a Happy Marriage.” Over the years, Karen has been inundated with letters from readers wanting more of Elizabeth’s wisdom. Here, for the first time, are Elizabeth Baxter’s “Ten Secrets to a Happy Marriage”—explained and expanded. This e-short is filled with practical guidance and advice, insight that will bring a greater love to any marriage.
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About the Author
#1 New York Times Bestselling novelist Karen Kingsbury writes Life-Changing Fiction™ and has been called America’s favorite inspirational author. There are more than 25 million copies of her award-winning books in print, including several million copies sold in the past year. Karen’s last dozen titles have topped national bestseller charts and many of her novels are under development as feature films and television movies.
In addition, Roma Downey and MGM Studios announced this year that they are developing 22 of Karen’s Baxter Family novels into a TV series. She lives in Tennessee with her husband Don and their five sons, three of whom are adopted from Haiti. Their actress daughter Kelsey lives nearby and is married to Christian recording artist Kyle Kupecky. The couple recently welcomed their first child, Hudson, making Karen and Don grandparents for the first time.
Liberty University: Karen is a visiting professor at Liberty University where she teaches master classes in a number of disciplines two weeks each semester. Karen has often said if Heaven had a university, it would be Liberty.
Movies: Two of Karen’s bestselling books were made into Hallmark Channel movies. The Bridge 1 & 2 are now available on DVD through Hallmark. Roma Downey and MGM Studios announced this year that they are developing 22 of Karen’s Baxter family novels into a TV series. In addition, several of Karen’s books are in development as feature films and television movies. In 2011, Karen’s novel Like Dandelion Dust was made into a highly acclaimed feature film starring Barry Pepper and Mira Sorvino. Like Dandelion Dust released in theaters across the country and is now also available on DVD.
Radio: In addition, Karen has recently been added as an on-air talent with the #1 syndicated morning radio program Keep the Faith. Karen’s segment, “The Heart of the Story” airs several times an hour every day of the week during the program.
Speaking: Karen is also a public speaker, reaching tens of thousands of women annually through various national events. She talks about having “One Chance to Write the Story of Your Life”, encouraging her fans to love well, laugh often, and find a life of faith.
Readers: Karen is actively involved with her readers and often shares time with them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. She has a free newsletter, which she uses to keep readers up to date on new releases, movies, TV shows, blogs, and book giveaways. Readers can sign up for Karen’s free newsletter on her website: www.KarenKingsbury.com
#1 New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury is America's favorite inspirational novelist. There are more than 20 million copies of her award-winning books in print, including several million copies sold in the past year. Karen has written more than 50 novels, many of which have topped national bestseller lists.
Read an Excerpt
ELIZABETH BAXTER'S TEN SECRETS TO A HAPPY MARRIAGE
Bloomington, IN – 2002
Bright sunshine streamed through the window and robins sang to each other from a tree just beyond the Baxter house. Elizabeth Baxter slipped her Bible back into her nightstand, leaned back in her cushioned chair and breathed deep. A new day was God's reminder of His faithfulness. Like the Bible verses she read today from Lamentations – His mercies really were new every morning.
Elizabeth's chair was set up in a nook in their bedroom. The nook had a floor-to-ceiling window that faced the front lawn, a handful of grand maple trees, and their stretch of driveway. Elizabeth believed it was the best view in the house. Perhaps the best view in Bloomington.
She remembered sitting in this chair through the years, and all the memories she had made in it. Spending time in God's Word, feeding her children, reading to them, watching them play in the leaves, building snowmen, living life. One of her most treasured gifts was this place in the house.
It was her escape, and her special area.
Elizabeth breathed in deep and smiled. The house was silent, it always had been since their youngest, Luke, left for college. Sure the kids came by every once in a while. They tried to meet as often as possible for dinners. They would talk about life and faith; the important things in this world.
Elizabeth turned and looked at her husband, John. He was still asleep, but he was just as handsome as the day they met. She studied him. The way he breathed. His tan, rugged skin, and his brown hair showing hints of age. She loved everything about him. Thank you, God for John. For his leadership in my life. For making our marriage so strong. I am so grateful.
The sun was higher in the sky now and there was work to do. Elizabeth stood and tiptoed across the floor. It was not yet seven, and she didn't want to wake John. He'd had a late shift at the hospital and just fell asleep a few hours ago.
Elizabeth had always been an early riser for one reason – she loved mornings. There was a peacefulness and serenity in the air, the perfect atmosphere to talk to God and contemplate the day. She put her robe on and stepped into her slippers. The house felt cozy, but outside autumn had dropped temperatures to the mid-50s.
Of course, the cool air wouldn't stop Bloomington, Indiana from being busy. Saturdays in the fall meant a day full of activities around town. Little Kickers Soccer Games, Farmers Markets, a CKT play, all of it was part of the exciting thriving culture in their small town this time of year.
Cole, Elizabeth's grandson, had a soccer game later today, and after that Elizabeth was certain that the family would all come over for dinner. She mentally added a trip to the grocery store to her list of things to do. Despite the busy day ahead, the house was still and Elizabeth wanted to bask in the moment. On her way out of her bedroom, Elizabeth grabbed her Bible from the top drawer once again.
She walked downstairs, into the kitchen, and found a fresh bag of coffee beans. She grounded just enough of them and started a fresh pot. As the coffee brewed, Elizabeth turned her Bible to Proverbs. She was going through the book of Proverbs with her church, a Proverb to correspond with each day of month. Taking a seat at one of the kitchen chairs, she stared out the window. Speak to me today, Lord. Please. I need Your word constantly.
It was the 22nd of October, so today she was on Proverbs 22. She read through the verses and one in particular caught her eye. It was verse six, "Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it." She pondered on this verse for a moment, and then continued the rest of the chapter.
When she reached the end, she made her way to the cupboard and found her favorite mug. She filled the glass with the fresh coffee, added cream, and took a seat back at the table.
She looked again at the verse, "Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it." She and John had always been intentional about instructing their children to do the right things. And they both knew that at some point, they had to trust their children to take on a relationship with Jesus as their own.
Elizabeth thought about some of the mainstays of their parenting over the years. She and John taught their family to respect all people, put others first, and serve whenever possible. They constantly told their kids these words:
"You are Baxters. That name means something. When you go out into this world, you represent that Baxter Family, and most importantly, you represent Christ."
At this point in their lives, with all of the children out of the house, it was more difficult to instruct them, at least on a day-to-day basis. But that didn't mean their teaching and parenting was finished.
She and John prayed for their children daily, that they would continue to be a light in the places where God had set them. They prayed that their grown kids would continue to be Baxters in character and spirit.
But still Elizabeth wondered if it was enough.
She sighed and looked out the window, God, how can I continue to be a good mother? How can I impart wisdom to my children now that they're grown? She waited. There was no clear answer, but the Proverb echoed through her mind, Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
Suddenly Elizabeth knew. All her children were either married or old enough to be married. With a lifetime of failures, successes, embarrassments, conversations, and lessons behind them, she and John knew what it took to be in a happy, healthy, Godly marriage.
Maybe it was time to write down the Baxter "rules" for a happy marriage, the ways she and John had stayed so close through the years. It was parenting, in a sense. And this would be something her kids could hold onto for decades to come.
They could even pass it on to their kids and grandkids.
A thrill ran through Elizabeth. She grabbed her journal, and began to write:
1. DIVORCE IS NOT AN OPTION
Therefore what God has joined together, let no man separate. ~Mark 10:9
When you get married, from the very beginning, you need to understand that you are making a public commitment to be with each other forever. You must never enter a marriage with the thought that you can get divorced if things don't work out. That's not the way marriage works. When John and I got married, we decided that we would never use the "D" word.
Divorce. It just wasn't an option. It never would be.
Some spouses use the word as a threat. Or a scare tactic. And sadly, many spouses use the word because they really want an end to their marriage. Or at least they think they do. But for a Christian, the word divorce should never enter your conversation.
I remember the first year after your father and I were married, we got into a bad argument. I guess you could say that it was our first fight. It came from a lack of communication and confusion. Things that Satan will use to distract you. After the blow up, and a few hours of silence, your father came to me and apologized. He said that no matter what happens, he will always be there. No excuses. No getting around it. That's when he said it: "The 'D' word isn't, and never will be, be an option."
I remember looking at your father in a funny way. He smiled and clarified; his tone serious, "Divorce. It's just not an option, Elizabeth. You can't get rid of me that easily."
We both realized in that moment, that fighting will happen, but ultimately fighting becomes pointless when you know that you'll stay together no matter what. When we had that mindset, then no fight was too big or too difficult, because we knew that we were in it together. Forever. We knew that we would hunker down and get through it together no matter how long it took. That might sound like we kissed and made up in a painless way, but that's not the case. Being married – at times – was still difficult. We still struggled. But after that we had real boundaries.
Believe me, having this determination doesn't come naturally, or easily. It takes prayer and commitment, and sometimes more work from one of us than the other. You can blame and point fingers, but sometimes the issue comes from within you.
My friend Tammy has been married to her husband, Drake, for more than thirty-five years. They are so happy, but it wasn't always that way. I remember one dark season about ten years into their marriage. Tammy threatened divorce. She said that when she spoke the word out loud, the word took on a dark kind of power that hadn't been there before. They found themselves thinking about divorce. Pondering it. Was it actually an option now? What would this mean for them, and their kids? The word was out; it was on the table. It was an option.
Tammy came over that night, shaking and crying. She was clearly distraught and upset. She looked at me, tears streaming down her face. "Why did I say that word?" She looked devastated. "That single word changed everything."
Of course, after a few days of awkward space and silence between these two friends of ours, Tammy apologized and they found common ground once more. The word never left her mouth again. See, when we threaten our spouses with the possibility of divorce, we actually open the door to that reality. A word like 'divorce' can do more damage than we'd like to admit.
But here's the thing: When you are married, you must make it a personal commitment to your spouse and to God that you will not consider divorce as an option.
Enter your marriage with the understanding that you are making a solemn vow before God that you will stay with your spouse until death separates you. There will be times ahead where the journey seems long. Parts where the road is not smooth and easy. It may feel hard to love your spouse. It may take more work than you thought.
But a loving marriage that lasts the test of time is worth the effort.
Nothing good ever comes without a struggle.
Even this morning I looked at your father and felt the same in-love feeling I felt back when we first got married. But that's only the case because long ago we decided divorce was not an option. Yes, we've had some bad days. But more importantly we've walked through the seasons of life together.
He is my constant, the one I know will never leave. Be that way with your spouse. Be a Baxter. Stay married. Be a team together. Remember, God brought you together and no one has the right to separate that.
Another way to keep focused on the promise of marriage is to never forget what the "honeymoon season" felt like. Never forget those early moments because some days it will seem like you never had them. Hold tight to what it felt like to say 'I Do', and every now and then see your spouse through the eyes of who you were back when you first got married.
Divorce is and always will be a cop out. It is the enemy's way of whispering in your ear the lie that walking away will be easier. But I assure you, it will not. As far as it depends on you, you must work as hard as you can at your marriage. Some arguments will be out of your control, and some of the choices your spouse makes will be out of your control.
But whatever else happens, don't let divorce be an option.
And remember, you cannot do this alone. You need to walk with the Lord. Let me put it this way: Put God first, and honor Him together. Keep your marriage vow, and your relationship with your spouse will be the happiest journey of your life. A journey where the difficult times happen less and less frequently. You won't just be making a happy marriage between the two of you.
You'll be leaving a legacy for your children and their children.
2. MARRIAGE IS NOT 50/50
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord ... ~Col. 3:23
So many people, including some very well-known marriage counselors, tell couples that marriage is 50/50. Give and take. Meet each other half way. That sounds like a nice sentiment, but after all this time with your father, I can assure you it simply is not true.
Marriage is 100/100.
All in. All the time. When you assume half of the responsibility, it can be easy to play the 'blame game', "It's not my fault the dog went on the carpet," you might argue. "Taking him out was your job." You point fingers and try to throw the responsibility off to the other person.
You'll spend so much time trying to figure out whose job is whose and who's busy failing, that you won't have time to love each other.
When a couple looks at marriage as a 50-50 agreement, they will always waste time analyzing each other's performance and behavior. "I'm doing my part," you might say. "It's about time you do yours!"
But this is not the way marriage is supposed to look.
True marriage is not about meeting someone halfway. It's not about figuring out your half of the relationship and then wondering why you aren't happy. By keeping a checklist of your half and your spouse's half of the relationship duties, you'll drown in the details.
Marriage is actually simpler than that for one reason: It is selfless.
A happy marriage means putting God first and your spouse second. Period. You, yourself, are no longer on the list of what matters most. It's pretty simple; God has you here to serve one another. Love acted out is serving. Giving 100% of yourself to your spouse.
In the course of a week, your father could easily cook me dinner, buy me flowers, give me a back rub, take me to lunch, clean the kitchen on a Saturday morning, and mow the lawn. But at the end of that time he never brings me a tally sheet to see how his loving actions stack up against mine.
The truth is if I never did anything for him, come Monday he'd be ready to give to me all over again. Clean and talk and show up with flowers for me all over again. Love me all over again. His loving actions toward me are not dependent on my actions toward him.
He's in this marriage to give 100 percent.
But here's the great news. Because we decided ahead of time to both give 100 percent, my weeks look a lot like his. I edit his medical papers and make him dinner. I clean the clothes and bring him his favorite coffee to work each Friday. The list is long for both of us, but we never compare lists.
And if the week comes when I fall a little short or he gets a little busy, our marriage doesn't suffer. Why? Because since we're both willing to give 100 percent, if one of us falls short, we're still covered as a couple. The total will always be way more than 100 percent – even on weeks when one of us struggles a little.
The bible is very clear about men and women's roles in marriage. The Bible says that the man must love as Christ loved the church, laying down his life for his wife (Ephesians 5:25). The Bible says the woman must submit to her husband (Ephesians 5:22). Obviously this verse assumes that, in a Christian marriage, a Godly husband is following after God and loving his wife in the same way Christ directed, the same way that Christ loves his church.
When a man loves like that, when he leads like that, submission becomes a beautiful way for a woman to love in return. Again, if a man gives himself over to loving selflessly 100 percent of the time, and a woman aims to respect her husband 100 percent of the time, that marriage will work beautifully, and both husband and wife will win. Why? Because God created marriage to work this way.
Clearly the Bible does not give the man license to dominate a woman or treat her as a lesser part of the marriage. The man's role of leadership is to be taken very seriously. And as wives, we need to be happy to serve our husbands. If marriage is working the way God designed it, the man should treat the woman in such a way that the woman is honored to follow his lead.
You must love your spouse in such a way that you glorify the Lord through your love for your spouse.
Sometimes you may think that your spouse doesn't deserve your total committed love every day. And you may be right. But love them unconditionally anyway. Do it because Christ calls us to do that. Love your spouse because God is calling you to love.
* * *
"Hi, Hon." The sound of John's voice pulled Elizabeth's attention away from her journal.
She looked up, and smiled. There, grabbing a mug from the cupboard was the love of her life, the man who made her the happiest, her husband, Dr. John Baxter. He poured his coffee. Black. Like always.
He yawned, took the first sip, and leaned against the counter. Even now, in the early moments of the morning, his hair a bit messy, he was her knight in shining armor. She set her pen down, stood, and made her way to him.
"Good morning." She wrapped her arms around his waist and kissed him.
"Good morning, indeed ..." He smiled, a teasing tone in his voice. He motioned over to the table, her journal and pen. "What are you working on?"
"Just something for the kids. I want to give them something practical. Something to take with them as they head into the next phase of life." Elizabeth walked over to the table, grabbed her journal, and returned to John. She handed it to him and he began flipping through the pages, "Most of them are already married, or on their way to marriage. All grown up. I thought that if I had anything to share, it would be this."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Elizabeth Baxter's Ten Secrets To A Happy Marriage"
Copyright © 2015 Karen Kingsbury.
Excerpted by permission of Bondfire Books, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Elizabeth Baxter's Ten Secrets to a Happy Marriage,
1. Divorce is NOT an Option,
2. Marriage is not 50/50,
3. Know Your Spouse's Love Language,
4. Expect the Best of Each Other and Be Patient,
5. Keep Dating,
6. Build One Another Up,
7. Laugh Often,
8. Live Within Your Means,
9. Fix Yourself, Not Your Spouse,
10. Keep Short Accounts,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
LOVES THIS BOOK!!!! I actually want to get one for each of my kids even though they are years away from marriage. It’s such a relevant & inspiring book.