Monday, February 17, 2014

Interview with Author Susan Call

I am very excited to have a unique opportunity to be interviewing popular Christian speaker and author, Susan Call, in this HeartPoint Blog post.

Hi Susan! First of all, I want to express my deep gratitude to you for taking time to “chat” with me. It is truly an honor getting to meet you, and I know that my readers and me will be greatly blessed because of this special interview.

Thank you, Dr. Fraser. I’m glad to be here today.

Please tell us a little about where in the U.S. you currently live and also something regarding your family, faith, and personal interests.

I’m a Pennsylvania native who now calls southern New Hampshire home. I’ve been married to my husband Jim just shy of ten years. Together we have a busy Brady-bunch family with four young adult children at home – my two children and two of his children call our house home. I’m a ground Christian who has learned through life’s incredible trials that God is bigger and greater than the most difficult challenges in life. Outside of writing and speaking, I enjoy photography as a hobby. Slipping behind the camera allows me to slow down and appreciate the world around me.

Your recent 2013 publication by Guidepost Books of A Search for Purple Cows, consisting of your own remarkable memoir, is making quite a stir and has been receiving rave reviews on I want to especially congratulate you on having your work named as the grand prizewinner of the Inspiring Voices Book Publishing Contest. That’s an amazing accomplishment and certainly well deserved! Were you surprised and what has that been like for you?

Thank you. Somehow, the word surreal doesn’t really seem to be strong enough to describe the whirlwind year it’s been. I have been so blessed to see the pieces of my challenging past fall into place and be used in such a powerful way.  I’ve been touched to hear from many readers who found encouragement or restored hope through my book, regardless if they share similar trials or not. I’m thankful for the gracious reviews from as far away as Mexico and India. Truly I feel as though I have a front row seat watching God’s hand at work touching and encouraging the lives of others.

For those who haven’t heard the story of your remarkable journey, it is one that is so inspiring and challenging to all of us—no matter our personal life difficulties and challenges—to focus on what’s truly important in life, pursue forgiveness, and find hope. If you don't mind, please tell us something about your background and life experiences that inspired you to write this book.

When I came to faith as a suburban mom of two young children, I thought God would show up and “fix” my less than perfect world. But, it didn’t quite work that way. Instead, He gave me clearer vision to really see what my situation had become. I was married to an alcoholic, unfaithful, abusive husband who had vowed to kill me if I ever tried to leave with our children. To make matters worse, his mistress was a close friend who was like a sister to me. It seemed to be an impossible mess. During that difficult time, the story of Daniel really ministered to me. I learned to focus on God, rather than the lions in my life. I trusted Him with each step necessary to provide safety for me and my children. Amidst my life’s turmoil, I felt God say to me that one day He would use my story, having no idea how he could use my broken path. Two years ago sitting a conference, moved by the transparency of the speakers, God spoke to my heart and said “write.”

I’m intrigued by the catchy title, A Search for Purple Cows, and am curious how you came up with it. Would you please fill us in?

On the day I fled with my children, a private investigator who had helped me leaned down to wish my children well. Searching for something encouraging and appropriate, he blurted out “be sure to look for purple cows.” My children, four and six jumped into my van wide-eyed, scanning the world beyond the windows for purple cows. It was a valuable lesson in focus for me. They weren’t looking back at our broken home, our torn lives, and shattered dreams but instead ahead to the unknown and perhaps impossible things that lie ahead. In our faith, I believe that’s what God wants us to do – focus on Him, and not limit Him by what we think is possible.

What is it that you hope your readers will take with them as a result of reading your book?

One of the biggest lies this world has to offer is that we’re the only one struggling and that everyone else has “life” all figured out. We’re not alone in our difficulties. I would love for readers to know that no matter what life has dealt them, they are not alone. God is available, present, and loves them. Life’s lions may be close but the same God that protected Daniel can give each and every one of us His strength and peace.

You are a nationally and internationally sought after speaker. Please tell us about some of the meaningful experiences you have had in this work and also about the main thrust of your passionate message.

I’ve been incredibly moved by the women who have reached out to me. From those caught in abusive dangerous situations inspired to seek help, to those who thought that because of their trials God had given up on them, or others who are just caught in the challenging routines of a busy daily life – I’ve been blessed to see God’s hand at work giving them a fresh new hope and sense of self worth.

While my speaking engagements are tailored to the audience or event, I speak passionately about our self-worth – what and who has influenced our sense of value, our focus – where we focus shapes our journey, and forgiveness – because it frees us to really live after we’ve been hurt. I enjoy sharing practical tips and powerful analogies that help us to see the fingerprints of God in our daily lives.

So, what’s next on the horizon for you in your speaking and writing ministry? Do you have any special projects that are currently in the works?

I’m looking forward to bringing the message of A Search for Purple Cows to audiences throughout the year. I have a variety of speaking engagements from women’s teas to full weekend retreats. On the writing front, I’ve begun a blog and am beginning to work on my next book project. My newest “project” is working with a mission’s team at my church partnering with Compassion International for our July trip to the Dominican Republic. My husband and I will be traveling with a team of 15 to be God’s hands and feet there. 

Susan, once again it has been such a privilege and honor to have you agree to this interview. Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to share a bit of yourself and your passion with us. As always, I would like to give you the opportunity to have the final word and see if there’s anything you would like to say to us by way of parting.

Thank you Dr. Fraser. It’s been great “chatting” with you. I’ll leave you and your readers with this encouraging thought – God is not limited to what we think is possible. He is capable of so much more. When Peter focused on Him, he walked on water. When Daniel focused on Him, he was spared from hungry lions. When I focused on Him, I found the possibility of purple cows. Now it’s your turn, what is possible in your life when you focus on Him?


Susan Call is a speaker and author who enjoys sharing her insights from life's valleys, offering hope and wisdom to her audiences. She holds a Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy from Eastern Nazarene College and a Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science from Susquehanna University. Her website is

Her new award-winning book, A Search for Purple Cows, is available everywhere! 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Working Through Marital Conflict

Well, I've been married for 25 years and can (dis)honestly say that my wife and I have never been in an argument. Right!!! When you spend the better part of your life with someone, you're sure to run into areas of disagreement. Let's face it: we're all unique and see the world through our own lenses. These differences can sometimes lead to tension and conflict in our relationship.

Last semester, I asked my undergrad students to help me out with a rather “tongue-in-cheek” project. I requested that they think of some sure-fire ways to start a fight with a spouse. And did they ever come up with some doozies! Here are just a few of them:
  • After they tell a long story, say, “Oh, were you saying something?”
  • When she asks what’s in your mouth, spit it at her.
  • When they least expect it, come up from behind and tackle them full force.
  • Side with your parents against them . . . every time.
  • Suggest that you eat out when your wife has already prepared dinner.
  • Eat all of the provolone cheese even though you know that it’s her favorite, and even though there is ample pepper jack cheese (which, incidentally, you picked out).
  • Constantly use the phrase, “Glad to see you’re finally doing something for me!” whenever an act of kindness is shown.
  • Record over your wedding video because you never watch it.
  • Tell her, “I’ve got a golf trip the same weekend as our anniversary. We’ll celebrate when I’m back.”
  • Purposely burp when kissing.
  • Refer to his or her mother as a “monster-in-law.”
  • Put your fingers in your ears while they’re talking to you and go “Blah! Blah! Blah! 

Marital conflict seems inevitable in most marriage relationships. During the process of spending a significant amount of time with our spouses, eventually some kind of disagreement will arise. It virtually cannot be avoided. But, not all conflict in marriage is necessarily inherently negative! We can grow together through conflict as couples, open lines of authentic communication, grow in understanding of each other’s expectations and needs, and ultimately develop deeper levels of trust, mutual respect, and love. 

Unhealthy conflict often consists of the following elements (Fraser, 2014):

Criticism (and Cheap Shots)
Negativity (or Nagging)

Dr. Emerson Eggerichs’ book, Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires / The Respect He Desperately Needs (2004) is based on the marriage theology of the apostle Paul in Ephesians 5:22-33. Eggerichs proposes two interactional cycles. The Crazy Cycle consists of the following unhealthy and dysfunctional process: Without love, she reacts without respect; therefore he reacts without love. In contrast, the Energizing Cycle consists of the following healthy relational process: His love motivates her respect, which in turn motivates his love. Men crave their wives’ admiration and respect, while women seek their husbands’ love and affection.
Let me suggest seven practical strategies for successfully working through marital conflict. 

1. Communicate. When communicating with our spouses in times of relational conflict, it is imperative that we remain calm, caring, and respectful. Also, it is critical for us to remember that communication occurs not only through verbal expression but also through non-verbals. In fact, approximately eighty percent of all communication is non-verbal, including such things as tone of voice, facial expressions, physical gestures, eye-contact, and the like. 

2. Concentrate. Pay close attention to what your partner is saying and listen both actively and reflectively. Turn off the TV, close the computer, put away your Ipad and cell-phone. Paraphrase the basic content of your spouse’s words, carefully reflect back their feelings, and deeper meanings behind what they are saying. Do so tentatively, though, often asking for further clarification. Ask yourself, “What is at stake here for my spouse?” Gain a clear understanding of what it is that is bothering our spouse at the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual levels.

3. Contemplate. Before responding, choose your words carefully. While feedback is a gift, the manner in which it is given is all-important. Slow down and say a silent prayer for God to give you understanding and wisdom in the manner in which you respond (cf. James 1:5). Rather than fuel the fire by your own anger or frustration, cool it! Politely ask your spouse if you may have a few minutes to think through what they have said—even to sleep on it—before replying. James 1:19 (ESV) states, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” Let your spouse know that it is important to you that you respond in the best way you can, and do so with the right frame of mind, rather than reactively.

4. Collaborate. Seek to work with your spouse to formulate a mutually agreeable solution to your conflict. This process will require both “give” and “take.” Brainstorm several potential ideas and jot them down, not judging or evaluating these ideas’ merits right away. Once a list of 10-12 possible solutions has been generated, discuss them one-by-one and weigh out the respective pros and cons of each of them. Many times, the best and most creative solutions are those that emerge from the various ideas as a sort of synthesis of two or more of them. Seek to work together and collaborate rather than pull apart.

5. Consecrate. Couples need the Lord! In the midst of relational turmoil, it is a huge mistake to exclude God from the healing process. Married partners that pray together stay together! However, the world has a way of creeping into Christian marriages and destroying them from the inside out. That is why marriages need constant and consistent healthy doses of spiritual fortification. When husbands and wives take time to come together for prayer, study of God’s Word, and regular worship, they will not only be individually consecrated (or sanctified) for God’s purposes, but they will sanctify one another (cf. 1 Cor. 7:16; Eph. 5:25-26; 1 Pet. 3:1-7).

6. Celebrate. While in the midst of marital strife, it's easy to forget the positive things that exist within the relationship. These could include a wonderful relationship history with many uplifting memories. They may also include a number of strengths or positives that could be capitalized upon. I often ask couples I am working with in marriage counseling the following question: “What are some things within your relationship that are actually going fairly well, that you would like to see continue?” I’m often astounded by the numerous strengths and positives that both partners are able to articulate. Often, because problems become so pronounced and appear to overrun the relationship, positives are largely overlooked or ignored. Therefore, it is important to look for the exceptions to the problem—the strengths of the relationship that need to be celebrated—and build upon them.

7. Copulate. Though mutually gratifying sex ought not to be viewed as the highest good, purpose, or function of marriage, it certainly plays a significant role (see 1 Cor. 7:1-5). It is important to take respite from the arguing and emotional tension on occasion to reconnect physically in the bedroom. Unselfish sex has a way of evening the playing field, releasing built-up relational tension, and rebuilding hope, satisfaction, and trust. It also diminishes the temptation to step outside of the relationship to have one’s sexual and/or emotional needs met. Sex ought to never be used as a weapon to punish one’s spouse through withholding it or using it to oppress the weaker vessel. However, it should be used as a gift from God to facilitate greater intimacy in the marriage relationship. Hebrews 13:4 (ESV) says, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” 

In conclusion, the marriage relationship is unequivocally one of the greatest gifts that God has given humankind. We must remember that it isn't a contract but a sacred covenant. However, along with this magnificent institution invariably comes certain formidable challenges and troubling conflicts. We must do everything in our power to protect the sanctity and well-being of the marriage relationship within the family, church, community, and world.