Cultivating “That Girl
About the Guest
Do you remember "that girl"? No, not the one on late-night reruns. The fun and flirty one that used to take extra care to look cute. The one that would go out of her way to please the man she loved-"that girl" you used to be before you got married and had children. Heidi St. John talks about the importance of cultivating "that girl" for your husband. Heidi also reminisces about her grandmother, whose love and adoration for her husband never diminished throughout 75 years of marriage.
Do you remember “that girl”? The fun and flirty one that used to take extra care to look cute.
Cultivating “That Girl
Bob: Heidi St. John had a model for what a healthy, strong, committed relationship looks like. It was the enduring love shared by her grandmother and her grandfather.
Heidi: That doesn’t mean it was easy. I mean my grandparents lived through the Depression. There were several things within our family that were very difficult, and I watched them weather difficult things. I think that’s important. Our kids watch Jay and I argue. They see us argue, and that’s alright with us; because we want them to see that at the end of the day we’re going to resolve it also. I think it’s healthy for our kids to see—doesn’t mean it’s always easy. It means we’re committed to the relationship long term.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, November 2nd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll hear today about the power that a legacy of lasting love can leave to future generations.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I asked you earlier about what had been the most romantic and least romantic decades in your marriage. Would Barbara agree with your assessment, do you think? You said, “Right now is”—
Dennis: When I said, “Right now,” it is the past decade, the past ten years.
Bob: With the nest empty? Did emptying the nest bring back the romance?
Dennis: What do you think? [Laughter] You’re about to find out. You’re about to launch your last arrow.
Bob: I hope so—may it be. Your lips to God’s ears, right there. [Laughter]
Dennis: You know we have an expert with us on romance.
Bob: Yes, but her nest hasn’t emptied, and it’s got a long way to go.
Dennis: Yes, she’s got seven children. Heidi St. John joins us again on FamilyLife Today. You’ve written a book called Romance: Nurturing Your Marriage Through the Homeschool Years; and although this is targeted a bit towards homeschoolers, you’re really talking about an age-old problem that every marriage faces. Do you think couples are giving up too soon on their marriages today?
Heidi: Well, yes, they are because the culture says that that’s what you do. I think we live in a culture that doesn’t value marriage. It’s taken kind of a back seat to making your life what you want it to be, and we’ve lost the passion for pursuing the covenant of marriage that we made when we got—
I mean, everybody had a girl or boy they were trying to impress, right? That’s how you got married in the first place. Then, somewhere along the line, it doesn’t matter anymore. We lose it, and the culture tells us, “It’s all right. Your kids will be fine; people get divorced every day.” I think we’ve just lost sight of it.
Bob: Well, you named your book, Romance, but you really were talking about more than what typically comes to mind when we think about romance. You weren’t just talking about the butterflies in the stomach. You were talking about the substance of a thriving marriage.
Heidi: Yes, and what makes a marriage worth it, why it’s so important to not give up, why it’s so important to nurture your marriage when you’re raising children, and dream together and pursue the life covenant that you’ve started out together, and continue on that path.
Bob: Your grandparents--you just smiled when I said “Your grandparents.” There is a special connection there, isn’t there?
Heidi: Yes, there is. My grandparents were married almost 75 years. My parents had a really rough relationship. I grew up in a kind of troubled home, and I got to see what love really looked like by watching my grandpa chase my grandma around the kitchen in their home for my entire growing up. So, we had a very special relationship.
Dennis: He referred to her, or she referred to herself, as “That girl.”
Heidi: She did. Well, I said in the book—I call myself, “That girl.” That’s what I told Jay when he said he missed me. He said—I said, “Who do you miss?” He said, “I miss the girl I married.” I thought to myself, “I’m still that girl.” When I thought about my grandparents, my grandma was “That girl” to my grandpa. She was always—she always remained no matter what they went through the girl that he married—she was “That girl,” and she’s the girl I want to be.
Long after my kids are grown and, hopefully, Lord willing and should the Lord tarry and I’m still here into my late 80’s or 90’s, I want to be “That girl.”
Dennis: What do you mean by that? How did your grandma cultivate?
Bob: What was she?
Heidi: You know she—well, she was a remarkable woman, but I think the thing that made her stand out was that she just had this intense love for my grandfather. She—and that doesn’t mean she always agreed with him. She was a very—she was a—I’m trying to think of one word for Grandma. It’s almost impossible. She had a ton of energy. She had a ton of passion. She loved the Lord, and she loved my grandfather fiercely.
She might argue with him, and they might disagree; but at the end of the day, we all knew that, that relationship was never in question. There was never going to come a day when Grandma was just going to go, “You know I’m done with you. I don’t think I can do this anymore,” because they made such a point of nurturing each other.
My grandpa just as much or maybe even more than Grandma exhibited her love for him, he exhibited love for her. It just ministered to me. I watched them, and I remember thinking as a child, “That’s what I want. When I’m grown up and I’m blessed to have a family of my own, that’s what I want.”
Bob: You said you watched him chase her around the kitchen.
Heidi: That’s right.
Bob: Seriously, chase her? I mean—
Heidi: Absolutely. Oh, absolutely, they were chasing each other everywhere. My grandparents used to take us to the beach, and this is—they were very opposite in the way that they approached the grandchildren because they only had one daughter of their own; and she had seven children. So, they had seven grandchildren who they were very protective of.
They’d take us to the beach, and Grandpa, as soon as Grandma would turn her back—Grandpa would go, “Run, run, run, run. Grandma’s not looking.” We’d go right out into the water, you know? As soon as Grandma would turn around, she’d be like, “Daniel S. Forsberg, get those kids out of the water.” He was like, “Isn’t she cute when she yells?” That would be his response. So, they loved each other.
Bob: Sounds like they were flirty and fun with each other.
Dennis: You describe a way that they looked at each other that you caught as a young person growing up. It’s like you were a little radar unit, and you were watching this much older couple, who weren’t your parents, who were still truly in love and committed to one another. What was the look you were talking about?
Heidi: I think it was—it was just this—he, my grandfather, adored my grandmother, and you could see it in his eyes. If she had an opinion, it mattered to him. He wanted to hear her opinion. If he had something to say about dinner, she wanted to hear it. He winked at her. He just—he would look at her with just this look of adoration; and I wrote about it in the book because that’s the way he looked at her right before he passed away.
I was there when the Lord took my grandpa home. We were sitting with my grandpa, and I got to watch the Lord take him home. I watched my grandma speak the last words to him that he would ever hear on this earth, and it was absolutely precious for me because she came to tell him it was alright to go; and he was even listening then. He was even listening—it mattered to him.
Bob: How old were both of them when he went home?
Heidi: Grandpa would have been 91, and a few years later when Grandma passed away, she was 93.
Bob: And just take us to that scene. What—was it in a hospital? Was it at home?
Heidi: No. My grandparents spent the last five years of their lives in like an assisted living facility, and Grandpa had taken a turn for the worst; and I remember thinking, “He’s probably—the Lord’s going to take him home.” He lingered. We had to move him to a different section of the facility, and we would bring Grandma over.
About once a day, she would be able to come and see him; but there would always be somebody with Grandpa every day and night—one of the grandchildren. We were taking turns just being with him and then going back to Grandma and reporting on how he was doing.
I’ll never forget one of the nurses came in, and my grandpa had gone to a phase in the process of dying where he could no longer eat. He couldn’t be hydrated anymore, and it was so painful for me to watch as his granddaughter. I sat there and just sang to him. We would sing hymns to him. We would read passages of Scripture to him; and every once in awhile, he would open his eyes, and he would look at us.
I started wondering if he was waiting for something, and I learned—and I wrote about this because it’s so powerful. The last lesson I learned from my grandparents was the gift of finishing well.
My grandpa was waiting for my grandma, and I think that she knew that he was waiting for her. So, the day that he passed away, we brought Grandma over to visit him. I’ll never forget because he was just almost nonresponsive at that point. We lowered the side rails on his bed, and we wheeled Grandma up as close as we could. Then, she leaned into him; and I’m telling you it was like there was nobody else in the world, let alone in that room, watching the two them.
She put her hands on his chest, and she put her face next to his face. She cried. Her tears just kind of dropped onto his face, and we all—all six of us. We, six other grandchildren and my mother were standing there.
She said, “I love you. You have been such a good husband,” just affirmed his life. She said, “I know I’ll see you again.” She said, “You’re so handsome. You’re as handsome now as the day I met you; and it’s okay to go.”
I knew in that moment she was making the choice to prefer him again. That’s what she had modeled for us her whole life; that’s what I had seen her do was prefer my grandfather. I know she didn’t want him to go, but she gave him permission to go, and she said, “It’s alright to go. I know you’ll be waiting for me. I know it won’t be long.”
He opened his eyes. I had not seen him really open his eyes in a couple of days, and just a tear fell from his eyes. He said, “I love you,” and that was the last thing he said. Shortly after that, he went home to be with the Lord.
But I felt in that moment watching my grandparents, I thought, “I want to be ‘That girl.’ That’s who I want to be.” Lord willing, if we make it to that point in our lives, I want my children to be around me and go, “You know what? My mom didn’t have it all together, and my parents didn’t do everything right; but boy, they loved each other and they loved the Lord and they finished well.” It was a powerful moment for me.
Bob: How does that memory, that picture, influence how you and Jay do life and do marriage together today?
Heidi: I think that the thing that we do focus on in our marriage is what’s coming. We know that our kids are watching us, and we know that someday our grandchildren, Lord willing, are going to be impacted by the way we do marriage and the way we love each other.
I think it has shown us that those decisions, the little ones—it was the little ones that added up to the big thing at the end that—the light bulb moment for me—that was like, “Oh my goodness! I am a healthy woman with a healthy marriage and a stable family largely because of the little tiny things that my grandparents poured into my life over years and years and years.”
It was not one big thing. It was a commitment to intimacy that I saw modeled in their marriage. It was a commitment to the covenant that they made and giving us that security.
Jay and I said, after my grandfather went to be with the Lord—we said, “Boy, we’re going to work harder at making sure our kids know what really matters. And at the end of the day, we’re going to follow the Lord in our marriage and we’re going to prefer each other.” A lot of that involves sacrifice. It is sometimes painful, but it’s looking ahead to what God might be doing in the future.
My grandparents had no idea that I would write a book or talk about them. They didn’t know the impact that they were having on me, but God knew it. God knew it. They just knew that they wanted to follow God. I think that’s what Jay and I want.
All seven of our kids--for as different as they are—and they are all extremely different—we want them to follow Jesus, whatever that looks like. We know the best chance we have to see them walk with the Lord is if we are walking with the Lord ourselves.
Dennis: You are talking about a gift of 75 years of marriage—what a generational gift to be able to go the bank on. And back to Bob’s question—by having that model, especially in this culture which is “If it doesn’t work out, bag it, turn him in for a better one, get a new one”—
I remember as a boy my grandparents as well; and I can still remember my grandpa whose name was OT and my grandma whose name was Bertha. How about that for a pair?
Heidi: I love it.
Dennis: OT and Bertha Ray, and I can still remember a two- or three-tiered cake with a big 5-0—a golden 5-0 on top of that cake. I still—and by the way, I still have my grandparent’s 50th wedding cake topper in my office because it’s a great reminder to finish well.
You talked about that, watching your grandfather finish well. That is really a tremendous gift to make to a son, a daughter, grandchildren, or maybe great-grandchildren.
Heidi: Yes. It’s amazing to see what it has done, just that simple act of faithfulness on their part. Like I said, they weren’t even—they didn’t recognize what they were doing because in their day and age people stayed married. They didn’t recognize the impact that they were having on me by just the simple things every day, and recognizing the importance of the vow they made.
Bob: But it wasn’t just that they stayed married—
Bob: —it’s that they stayed in love and that it was obvious to everybody.
Heidi: And it wasn’t always easy. That doesn’t mean it was easy. I mean my grandparents lived through the Depression. There were several things within our family that were very difficult, and I watched them weather difficult things. I think that’s important.
Our kids watch Jay and I argue. They see us argue, and that’s alright with us; because we want them to see that, at the end of the day, we’re going to resolve it also. I think it’s healthy for our kids to see—doesn’t mean it’s always easy. It means we are committed to the relationship long term.
Bob: I want to ask you about that. Because your kids watching you argue, what do they see? Because there are some parents who go—the way some parents do conflict, you don’t want the kids seeing that.
Dennis: I’m watching Heidi express herself. I think she may be related to the grandma, her grandma—high energy, high fireball, a lot of opinions, huh?
Heidi: Yes. Oh, yes.
Dennis: You a little bit like your grandma?
Heidi: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. I’m definitely like her. It’s funny because Jay, my precious husband, is the opposite of me. He’s much quieter. But I’ll tell you: He said when we first got married, he didn’t know how to argue; he has figured it out. He has figured it out now. [Laughter]
Bob: So, when you’re doing conflict together in front of the kids, are you shouting at each other?
Heidi: Absolutely not. No, we’re not a shouting family. That doesn’t mean we haven’t raised our voices from time to time; but at the end of the day, I love and respect Jay. I respect his opinion even if I disagree with him; I respect it. I think that’s part of the reason we let the kids in on—not every disagreement that we have but certainly a lot of them—because I want them to see that there’s a right way to disagree with somebody.
We’ll say that to our kids: “When you see your dad and I argue, the goal is that we are going to resolve it. We’re not going to leave it. We’re not going to ignore it.” And I think it’s good for our children. Sometimes, they’ll come to us; and they’ll say, “You know, Mom and Dad, you argued about this; and then, you decided this. How did you do that?” Our older kids in particular, “How did you come to this resolution?”—because they’ll know we disagree about something.
You are right. I am kind of a fireball. So part of it, for me, over the years, over the past 23 years of marriage, has been learning to be quiet. I’m not good at that. You know?
Dennis: (whispering) I was wondering what your definition of shouting—what your definition of shouting was.
Heidi: (whispering) I am not a shouter, Dennis. [Laughter]
Dennis: Just has a high degree of intensity, doesn’t it, Heidi?
Heidi: Just a small degree.
Bob: A little octane there.
Heidi: Look how meek and mild. [Laughter]
Dennis: One story you told in the book was of a wise woman who shared a secret about protecting her marriage by cultivating romance in their relationship.
Heidi: Yes. She was amazing. She was a pastor’s wife, and I was a very young—a young wife at the time. They lived on a pastor’s salary, but I’ll tell you what, She created a sanctuary in her home for their—their bedroom was an absolute sanctuary.
They lived down the street from us in married student housing, and she had learned the art of making her husband feel special. She said, “Heidi, I want to show you something.” She had been married about eight years longer than I had, and their kids are all grown now and married. They are grandparents now.
She said, “I want to show you something. I want to show you what I’ve done for Michael.” I went into her room, and I’m telling you it looked like something out of Better Homes & Gardens magazine, this beautiful bedroom. This was married student housing at Multnomah School of the Bible. It was nothing to write home about, but this room was amazing.
There was potpourri burning. There were beautiful curtains, pillows. I said, “Where did you—how did you do all this? We don’t make any money. We all go to college, and we’re working for churches.” She said, “Oh, these are garage sale finds. This was a flea market. This was that.” She said, “I want to communicate to my husband that I love him, and I want him to look forward to coming home at the end of the day.”
You know what? He still does. I was just at her home in Phoenix, and she is still like that; and they still have a wonderful, flourishing romance because Lila learned the secret of getting to her husband’s heart. She learned to speak his love language. I think it’s so important.
Bob: I know you guys are committed to homeschooling. In fact, that’s part of the family business for you. And you wrote this book to homeschooling moms—although as we said, it really applies to any busy mom; but why the heart for the homeschooling mom?
Heidi: That’s a great question. I think the heart for the homeschooling mom comes from the last ten years of ministering to homeschool moms. I think people look at the homeschool community, and they just assume that homeschoolers have it all together by default because the moms are home and they are taking care of their kids. When the reality is, we are good at pretending.
I think that the enemy has taken particular aim at homeschool families. We’ve seen it in the last ten years for sure where these families are struggling under the burden of trying to meet everyone’s expectations, trying to look like they have it all together, trying to follow that formula. So, I wrote a workshop called The Busy Homeschool Mom’s Guide to Romance that I started doing about seven years ago. The book came out of that.
When we were in Spokane, Washington, I found an attorney who specializes in homeschool divorce; and I thought, “If someone can make a living off of divorce within the homeschool community, somebody needs to start talking about marriage and why it’s so important.”
So, we started saying, “Hey, academics aren’t the thing.” And I would say that to any mom. Academics and schooling all that stuff, if you follow the Lord, if you’ll let Him lead your family, if you’ll focus on the things of first importance, then God will do what God does best; and He’ll fill in the gaps for you. That’s what He is the best at. So, that’s what we do.
We remind parents to focus on the things of first importance. You nurture your relationship with the Lord. Then, you nurture your relationship with your husband or your wife. Then, you raise your family, and in that order.
Bob: The sacrifice of homeschooling—and it does demand a sacrifice—is really born out of a love for your kids. I mean you want the best for your kids. So, this is how you’re going to nurture and disciple them; but that love for kids can become an idol that gets in the way of other higher priorities.
Heidi: That’s right. You’ve got to be careful of a child-centered home. I mean we see a lot of it in this culture, and it’s a killer. So, we’re always telling parents, “It’s a priority issue.” I don’t necessarily think we’re doing it on purpose. It’s a lack of understanding of what happens when we get our priorities out of order; that kind of makes it go all wacky in the first place.
Dennis: Heidi, you’ve done a great job of really equipping moms to better address the issue of romance in a busy culture. Just to summarize what you’ve talked about--you’ve challenged moms not to be pretenders but to let their love be authentic--Romans, Chapter 12, verse nine--and be honest about the relationship—don’t pretend that your Christian marriage is all good and perfect when it’s in the tank.
Secondly, don’t live parallel lives. Become a cord of three strands. Wrap yourselves together around Jesus Christ, build into one another’s lives spiritually, and don’t neglect the romantic side of your marriage relationship.
Finally, reaffirm your covenant, your marriage covenant, both in promise and in deed, and keep your covenant. Your covenant is not merely a promise not to divorce.
I really appreciate the illustration of your grandparents because you really talked about a fiery relationship between two very real people, very different people; but who kept pursuing each other, who kept on coming back to each other, who kept on preferring one another.
I think all three of these things are great reminders for all of us, especially in a culture that is really degrading marriages, is demeaning commitment, and really for all practical purposes, wants us to quit. I just appreciate your work and hope you’ll come back and see us again sometime.
Heidi: Thank you. I’d love to.
Bob: I hope our listeners are going to go to FamilyLifeToday.com, get more information about your book, which we’ve got in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. The book is called The Busy Homeschool Mom’s Guide to Romance: Nurturing Your Marriage Through the Homeschool Years. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com to order a copy of the book; or you can order by calling 1-800-FL-TODAY; get more information when you get in touch with us about how to get a copy of Heidi’s book.
I was just sitting here thinking about the couples who, this weekend, are going to be making the kind of investment we’ve been talking about in their marriages. We have a couple thousand couples who are going this weekend to one of our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways in—I think we’re in eight cities this weekend.
Next weekend, we’re in Northwest Washington; Sioux Falls, Idaho; Pittsburgh; Coeur d'Alene; Fort Wayne; Estes Park; and then, the weekend after that we’ve got more Weekend to Remember getaways happening. If you have never been to a Weekend to Remember, there is still time for you to go this fall. These are great weekend getaways for couples where you can build into the foundation of your marriage, the commitment that needs to be that bedrock foundation for every marriage relationship.
Find out more about the Weekend to Remember or about the Art of Marriage® video event. We’ve got a few hundred of those events happening this fall as well. There is information about both of those available online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or if you have any questions, call us. 1-800-FL-TODAY is the number; 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY”.
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We hope you can be back with us on Monday when we’re going to talk with Judy Starr. We’re going to hear the story of how she almost made a horrible mistake in her marriage. She got right up to the edge, tempted to walk away from her husband and into the arms of another man. She’ll tell her story Monday, and I hope you can be here for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back on Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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