- rekindle the romance in their love story,
- trust in God’s providence and timing,
- faithfully hope for their own happily-ever-after,
- celebrate true romance,
- and believe in lifelong love.
Thursday, March 15, 2018
Do you believe in true love?
Part 1 of an interview with Rhonda Stoppe,
author of Real-Life Romance
Do you believe in true love? In a world of broken relationships and hurting people, it can seem as though heartache is all around us, marriages are doomed from the beginning and relationships aren’t worth the risk. However, in Real-Life Romance: Inspiring Stories to Help You Believe in True Love (Harvest House), Rhonda Stoppe sets out to show that heart-fluttering, long-lasting love is all around us, if we just take the time to look for it.
Real-Life Romance is not a marriage self-help book; rather it is a celebration of love stories that honor Christ and are a testament of God’s faithfulness, showing that true love exists and endures. Gathered from years of ministry and from the author’s friends and family, these real-life accounts will bring laughter and tears to readers as they read of ordinary people who found extraordinary love. Stoppe believes audiences will find inspiration to:
including photos of the couples and video clips of the couples from the book.
Q: Real-Life Romance shares real-life accounts of ordinary people who found extraordinary love. How did you find and collect the stories included in your new book?
Real-life love is all around us; we just have to look for it. That elderly couple sitting in the pew at church — what’s their story? How did they meet, fall in love and stay in love for so many years? Those lifetime lovers are my heroes of the faith because their lifelong love reflects Christ’s love and offers hope to anyone who wants that kind of romance.
My husband and I have been in ministry for 30 years. In that time we have had the privilege of watching many young people fall in love, meeting people with incredible love stories and walking the elderly through the death of their loved one. The love stories we have heard in our years of ministry, along with speaking at women’s events, I have heard story after story of real romance that offers hope. I truly believe the world is ready for a book celebrating that kind of love.
Q: When people think of romance, candles and roses come to mind. What actually is romance, at least from your point of view?
Romance — real romance — is loving someone for who they are and believing the best about that person. I think of 1 Corinthians 13, which says, “Love bares all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” That’s romance.
Choosing to believe the best about your love when they haven’t measured up to your expectations? That’s romance. Choosing to see their beauty after they’ve been up all night with a sick baby, and they look like a train wreck? That’s true romance. It’s the love we long for and the love we hope to give. This love is possible when our love for Christ is deeper than our love for any other person in life.
Q: When did you first realize you were in love with your husband, Steve?
I met Steve when I was only 14 (almost 15) years old. He had come home from Bible college and was way too old for me. At that age, six years’ difference is a big deal. I remember when I met him for the first time that he took my breath away. After a quick interaction with him, I walked away and literally thought, I’m going to marry him one day. (Immediately, I was embarrassed at the thought because I was young and knew this would be impossible.)
I watched him date all the college women in our church and wished he would look my way, but I knew I was too young. Throughout the years our paths would cross. When our siblings were dating each other, I was often nominated by my parents to be their chaperone. Steve would come along from time to time. As I got older, the time came when. . . . Well, I am not going to tell you the whole story. You can read it in the first chapter of the book! Let’s just say, I knew I loved him almost from the start, and it took God a number of years to work out the timing of our love story.
Q: What lessons did you have to learn about God’s timing after you first met Steve, then later on in your marriage? What advice do you offer to those who may be growing impatient in finding the love of their life?
As a young girl I was naive about how real romance would be found. Because of the age difference between me and Steve, it would be awhile before we would become a couple, but looking back, I see how God orchestrated our steps. He was in control over the timing of our story. I recall how one night Steve called me on the phone while I was on a date with another young man. Just when the young man and I were moving toward a place of inappropriateness, Steve called. He had no idea at the time that his phone call was God’s timing to rescue me from going down a path I wasn’t equipped to steer away from. Since our story began by relying on God’s providence, remembering His sovereignty in our story has helped us to trust God’s timing and providence throughout our marriage and as we look forward to our future.
God’s timing is the common thread that runs through Real-Life Romance. God is sovereign and providential throughout the timing in our lives. The more you keep your eyes on Him, the more you can trust that no matter what circumstances are happening around you, He is in charge of your future. If it’s His will for you to marry, He is able to bring two hearts together to fall in love and spend the rest of their lives glorifying Christ together. Story after love story in Real-Life Romance reveals how waiting on God’s perfect timing brought true romance that lasts forever. I think these stories offer real hope and encouragement to anyone who is waiting for God to write their love story. For moms who are praying for God to bring a spouse to their children, these stories will help them show their kids how God is even more interested in guiding them toward their happily-ever-after than they are.
Q: Even though all of the stories tell of a love that has endured, every couple faced their trials too. Some of the couples faced addiction, such as pornography, alcohol and drugs. What is the common thread between couples, and how did they work through their issues to make their marriages stronger?
Whenever I speak at a women’s event or my husband and I teach at our No Regrets Marriage Conference, we inevitably hear someone’s heartbreaking story of how his or her spouse is addicted to pornography. I share one story in the book. Chuck and Angie met when they were young. Both were Christians, and long before they met one another, both had committed to Christ that they would wait to have sex until marriage. After they fell in love and married, the two settled into married life. You can imagine Angie’s surprise when Chuck seemed less than interested in enjoying her in their marriage bed. One day Angie stumbled across the reason for Chuck’s lack of interest. He had been viewing pornography. When Angie approached Chuck about what she had discovered, he was quick to apologize and promised it would never happen again.
But happen it did, repeatedly. The more Chuck wrestled with his addiction, the more Angie resented him for his sinful behavior. For Angie, forgiving Chuck was hard, but resenting him was even harder. As Angie pressed in to her love for Christ, He gave her His selfless love for Chuck. As Chuck allowed God’s Spirit to strengthen him in his battle against his addiction, he has seen strides of great victory. Angie credits prayer for getting her through. It was humbling when she realized that whatever sin she was addicted to was equal to Chuck’s. They both had to break free of their sinful struggles.
I also share a story of a couple who battled alcohol and drug addiction. As a young woman Jennifer battled with feelings of being used and unwanted while for most of Jeff’s life he wrestled with feelings of inadequacy and loneliness. Both tried to mask their pain through alcohol and partying. That’s where the two one day collided into each other. Eventually, they were wed. Jennifer stopped drinking when she found Jeff and thought her love for him should be enough to make him stop as well. As time went on, Jeff’s drinking turned to drug addiction. After their first baby was born, sadly Jennifer moved out of their home, but she never gave up on Jeff. After she started attending church and found Jesus, daily she asked God to save Jeff too. Through a wonderful set of circumstances Jeff came to Christ and broke free of his addictions, and the two were reunited. That was more than 25 years ago. Their love is stronger than ever, and these days they serve Christ together as worship leaders in their church.
Both couples were able to heal their marriages by bringing Christ into their marriage. They wouldn’t have been able to do it on their own.
Q: Both of your daughters and their husbands have faced challenges of their own — challenges many couples face. Can you share a little bit about their struggles with growing their families?
When my youngest daughter, Kayla, and her husband, Estevan, were expecting their first baby, they were saddened when the doctor told them the ultra sound revealed the baby she had been carrying no longer had a heartbeat. They were heartbroken over their loss but drew strength from knowing God was lovingly in control of all aspects of their life, and their trust in Christ drew them closer to one another for comfort.
That Christmas, Kayla and Estevan sent out a beautiful letter to their friends and family sharing just how sweetly God had walked them through their trial with His peace. Their testimony of God’s faithfulness was read by numerous people who did not know Christ. Amidst the storm, their love for one another and trust in Christ shined brightly.
A month after Kayla’s miscarriage our family was overjoyed when our eldest daughter, Meredith, gave birth to her second child, Ivy. Ivy had been born with some unexpected deformities. In a moment everything changed.
Throughout time Meredith and her husband, Jake, came to understand the syndrome God had allowed little Ivy to be born with. Rather than questioning God, the two had come to realize that the Lord’s love for Ivy far exceeded their own and that they could trust Him with their sweet baby girl. This grandmother’s heart was encouraged by Meredith’s wisdom and peace when one day she said to me, “Mom, this is Ivy’s trial, and God has invited us to prepare her to walk through it.”
Great love stories don’t always consist of two people falling in love and living without a care in the world. Rather, true love stories are wrapped around real life where God calls two people together to love Him and to love each other no matter what trials might come in life. When the love of two people is deeply rooted in Christ’s love for them, their response to life’s trials will reflect to a watching world how knowing Jesus really is the way to true love, joy and peace, no matter what challenges may come — and in this God is glorified.