I fell in love with my husband because he was unlike any other guy I had met. So I fell in love with my wife when I was three hours late for my first day with her and she still went on a date with me.
We both have the exact same sense of humor. I met her, we had a few minute conversation and I was like, wow, I could totally marry that girl. I thought, that's the kind of guy that I want to marry and it didn't hurt that he was really good looking too. Well, do you remember what it felt like when you fell in love? Maybe your heart started fluttering and your hands got kind of cold and clammy and just the thought of that person being around just made you smile. Well, as time goes on and life happens, sometimes those feelings kind of fade. And today on Focus on the Family, we're going to be sharing some love stories to help you remember why you fell in love and embrace the unique love story God is writing in your life.
He's still doing it. I'm John Fuller and your host is Focus on the Family president, Jim Daly. Now, John, I'll never forget that moment I met Jean. I was at a friend's wedding. I was best man at the wedding. The couple getting married, they were really excited to introduce us, but she had come with another guy. And so she was quite reserved and I was able to dance one dance with her. And then I walked back to the table and another friend that was there, I looked at him and I said, I think that's the woman I'm going to marry. It took 13 months, but I had to convince her. But that really was the moment. I mean, I just knew that she was the one.
It was amazing. Then we went on our first not real date. It wasn't official because Jean was not dating anybody. So this was just a bunch of people getting together, four of us, the married couple and then the two of us. And from that night, we went to an Amy Grant concert, actually. And from that night forward, even though we didn't talk about it, she said that night I knew. So it was pretty quick for both of us and so much fun.
How about you and Dina? Well, we had a great time meeting on a singles camp out. And it took me a few months to convince her that we really should go out on a date.
I asked her and she said no. So I persisted. We were prayer partners for a while. That worked pretty well. And then she did finally agree to start going out.
And it's been 35 years now almost. Okay, I'm thinking of the prayer partner thing. Were you praying, Dear Lord, bring a woman into my life. And she's your prayer partner. Well, it does bring us together when we pray. You might have had a little motivation going there.
You might have. And I think God's okay with that. Well, that's so great. Our guest today is going to illustrate that kind of romance and talk about how we can keep that flame going, even in the different paces of our lives. And our guest is Rhonda Stoppe. She is a pastor's wife, an author, a speaker, and has 30 years of experience as a marriage mentor. And her husband is Steve.
They have four grown children and 10 grandchildren. And Rhonda has a great book called Real Life Romance, inspiring stories to help you believe in true love. That's going to be the basis of our conversation today. Rhonda, welcome back to Focus on the Family.
Thanks. I'm so excited to be back with you guys. You've been sitting there quietly listening to our little giggles in our description. Anything catch your attention? And tearing up.
Even the intro, that little teaser. Oh, and then hearing you guys. And that's what this Real Life Romance book is, is in 30 years of being in youth ministry with my husband. He's been a pastor.
We're in California. We've been at the same church for the last 20 years. So you watch kids grow up and fall in love. I've seen my own kids grow up and fall in love. You marry them. We do premarital counseling with them. So you get to see over and over again the sweet love stories of people who really pursue Christ first. And then he writes their love stories. You know, it's fun to think about when you I mean, I hadn't thought about this, but to do premarital counseling, to be the couple doing it, that is so good for your own marriage.
So good. You had in the early stages of your courtship. I mean, it was kind of a little different. You were young. You were 14.
I think Steve was older. I'll let you describe that story. But how did you meet Steve?
Let's start there. Well, it's a long story. And I was going to a Christian school in the San Francisco Bay Area. He was away at college in Denver.
He came home and his parents had moved to the town where this school was. So he just kind of was the new guy at church. And if you've been in a singles group, you know, when a new guy walks in, it's fresh meat. Oh, yeah, right. And there's usually way more women than men.
A fresh challenge. OK. OK, whatever. You get the idea. But, you know, here comes a Steve Stoppie hottie with a body and these girls are like, oh. And so he just thinks it's a very friendly church. And it was.
Oh my goodness. And he starts taking these girls out and I'm watching from afar. And honestly, the first time I ever met him, the first time I ever talked to him, he was working on the buses in the back of the church. And I walked in the back of where the school was looking for my sister and he was working on the bus. And so I said, have you seen my sister? And he says, your sister who? And she happened to be dating his brother at the time. I'm like, she's dating about my brother who?
And he was just banter. He was giving me a hard time. My mom was waiting in the car. My mom was irritated. I'm like, I got to go. As I walked away, I had a fleeting thought.
I'm going to marry him. And I was like, I was embarrassed. I was like, just shy of 15 years old.
I didn't think that about any guy on the street. And I was like, what? That's embarrassing. And then but I had the hugest crush on him from then on. So I'm watching him, you know, dating these women.
And I'm this teenage girl. My sister wasn't allowed to go out with his brother unless there was a chaperone. So I had always gone with them. It was like threesome. So he started going with us, the four of us. Eventually, my sister and his brother broke up. So I hadn't seen him in a while. He had a 1969 Mach one. He sold that makes your heart rate. In fact, there's a video on my website of us telling our love story. He talks more about his 1969 Mach one. You haven't taken that personally.
No, because I want a woman. He's out there watching this. But yeah. So anyway, I was a cheerleader for this Christian school. Hadn't seen Steve in a while. And I we pulled up to a game that we were going to play a basketball game. It was in Fremont. And he was on the basketball team. Well, he was alumni. Oh, OK. Because he's all right.
He's gone. So I saw this 1969 Mediterranean blue Mach one with a shaker hood. It sounds like you might love this car more than yours.
It is a part of our romance story. Man, you even know the right term. But I saw the car and I knew it was his. There's no mistaking.
And I got a little flutter. Oh, Stoppie's here. I'm going to see Stoppie. So I walk in this gymnasium and he's playing the alumni game for the school he graduated from. So as I walk in, it's a small gymnasium. He's doing a layup right toward the door that I'm walking in. So he does this layup and then he kind of does this kind of freezes in. And we lock eyes and he gives me that smile and a wink.
And he goes down to finish the game. And I'm like, he saw me. He saw me. He's going to come talk to me. What am I going to say?
Trying to think of whatever clever thing I could say. So I go over to my side of the gymnasium after the game. He goes, I guess, showers, whatever. Finally, he comes out and I'm like, oh, he's going to come talk to me. And he puts a girl on his arm and he walks up the bleachers, introducing this girl to all of my alumni. And I'm like, I look down at my cheerleading uniform, my teenage self, and I'm like, he is never, ever going to notice me.
I'm too young. And that was he didn't even say goodbye to me. You didn't say goodbye to me.
It's a good thing there's a wall between us, a wall of glass between these two. And I was sad. But what I love about that story, it reminds me of how I longed for his attention.
Oh, interesting. And it's what I call magical moments. There's we forget once we're married how much we longed for that person to look our way.
Absolutely. But then you go into the courtship, you get married, and that's where we want to go now is. OK, so how long did the glow last? Well, we got married and then we moved. I was working full time and he was working full time. He was in construction. So the honeymoon's over. So I'm going to work all day. And it's the rainy season during construction.
So he would stay home and play Atari with his brother while it was raining. And I would come home and they would have peanut butter toast and it would be all over the counter. And I would just be like, oh, I had to clean it up.
Don't you care what I do all day? And I felt myself starting to just not enjoy him because he wasn't measuring up to my expectations. And so as that occurred, it scared me. I knew the wife I meant to be. And I think that's the wife we all longed to be is this amazing woman that their cheerleader. We laugh out loud with them. We have fun with them. So why do we husbands irritate you so much? Well, I think it's because our expectations are so like, if you love me, you would clean up your peanut butter toast.
And we assign wrong motives to their actions. And I think that to me is where we have to step back. I want to be in love with my husband till the day one of us dies. I want to be in love with him long past that.
And I want him to be in love with me. But if I'm not still working out when we're dating, you know, that 1969 Mach 1 be rumbling down the road and I'd hear it was in the 70s. So I got my Farrah Fawcett hair curling iron going on and my heart would pitter patter when I heard that car come and I wanted to look my best and give him the biggest hug when he walked in the door. But once we're married, oftentimes, you know, we're in the same yoga pants I've worn for five days and sprayed some dry shampoo in my hair. And you know what? The kids have been hanging on me all day. I don't have time to say hi to you as you walk in the door. I think it's just easy to lose that romance in those simple things.
You know, a lot of times. And the reason that I like these stories is it shows real romance. You know, romance me is not just plan the perfect date. Take me out to a nice restaurant.
Romance is walk in the door and take this baby and just let me go take a bubble bath and meet me in the bedroom after you put them all to bed. I don't care if you give them peanut butter toast for dinner. As long as you clean it up. Pet peeve.
Well, that's one of the key things. You've been married 36 years. Jean and I have been married 32.
How about you and Dina? Going on 35. We're 38 now. Oh, 38.
Okay. So when you see that, I mean, it can be pretty dry at times. And I'm sure there's a spouse, a wife or a husband listening right now going, yeah, we we kind of hit the desert island 12 years ago or 15 years ago. For that parched couple who, you know, they haven't kept with it. They haven't romanced each other.
They haven't done the hard work, which it really is hard work. I think the first thing I would say is one of the couple is listening today, not both of them. And they're thinking, oh, I wish he was listening to this. I wish she was listening to that. And my advice is let it begin with you.
Don't wait until he becomes the man you wanted him to be. Yeah, but here's the irritating part. It's the irritating part. How do you overcome the irritating part to say, OK, it's going to start with me. I'm going to act differently. I'm going to act more excited or whatever. For me.
Yes. Number one, it was finding great mentors. It was finding couples. Steve was we worked in youth ministry, so we got to see the parents of our youth and the ones who still held hands when they walked in the door at church.
The one who laughed at each other's jokes, winked at each other across the room. I'm like, what do you know? I want and we just became friends with them.
What did they say? I always say, oh, ladies, ladies know stuff. You know, Titus two calls the older women to teach the younger how to love their husbands. And that word love is to be his friend. It's how to be his friend. When we get married, our husbands oftentimes are thinking this woman's going to be my friend. She's going to be my support, my encourager. And I think we get so busy about the business of life.
We forget that. So what these women did, they invited me to a woman's Bible study and they said, just join us. It was a book of Philippians study and we went through the book of Philippians and the word of God does transform you. The word of God. If you go into it saying, you know, search me, oh God, know my heart, try me, know my anxious thoughts.
If there's any wicked way in me, not my husband in me and lead me in the way everlasting. God, Jesus said the priority of life is to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength that your whole being and then love your neighbors yourself. We try to love our neighbor the way God wants us to love without loving God the way he called us to love him, which comes through fellowshipping with him in prayer, washed with the water of the word, seeking him on a daily basis. And I can remember when I knew I didn't love God like that.
And I would once in a while meet somebody who did and it would bother me because I knew that's what it was supposed to look like. I was trying to be a good Christian and do all the right things. It was more out of duty than out of adoration. And I remember repenting and asking the Lord, I can't love you like that, but you said you have not because you ask not. And so I'm asking you to give me the love you want me to have for you.
I'll do the work. I'll fellowship with people that love you like that and then love you through me. So that then what spills out of us is his agape love for others, beginning with our spouse.
I think that's really good. And I think the difficulty is that discipline of putting yourself kind of in the back seat. And it's the classic struggle we have being selfish creatures. And the Lord's telling us over and over again, you know, this is the problem that you have.
And what I'm going to do through marriage and here's where the culture breaks down with marriage. It's actually meant for us to become more selfless. And I think I'm saying this for myself, too, because I don't do it well. I try, but sometimes I fail.
A lot of times I fail. So how do we remind ourselves what this is about? I think it's just important that we it's intentional and taking our entitlement and setting it aside. I'm not entitled to make that person make me have happiness.
So it's not me, me, me, me, me. Right. My happiness is not going to lie in how well my spouse treats me. My happiness is not going to lie in my worth being found in if he still thinks I'm beautiful. When we let each other off the hook and we find our depth of who we are in this adoration of the creator of heaven and earth loved us so much. He purchased us for his treasure with the blood of his son. That's the spiritual answer. The practical answer is just do it. Just wake up every day and think on whatever is good, right, honorable and praiseworthy about your spouse. And then asking your your the Lord. Give me the love for him. Rekindle those things.
Remind me of those things. And that's the goal of this real life romance. The last chapter in the book, one more love story.
It says it's yours. Write your love story in this book. And you're just not just any love story. It's your story.
The one that your children and your grandchildren may tell long after you're gone. Rhonda, as Christians, we sometimes think things like romance and true love are kind of in that silly category. Maybe men think of it that way. Let me speak for men. Girlfriends out there. But also, we might think they're somewhat worldly.
I don't know. I mean, I tend to like romance and all that. I don't know if Gene would agree. Well, it'd be good to see it occasionally. We have her on the phone right now.
And it was nice having John on the broadcast. But I want to get to the point, you know, what's the significance of the biblical stories? I mean, I think and again, I'm being very stereotypical. I get that. But I think we men, we kind of brush through those and we don't think of it in that context. We want to get to David battling, you know, as a warrior.
And that price starts as teenagers, right? We want to nitty gritty guy stuff in there. But the stories in scripture about romance, first of all, do they exist? And secondly, where are they and what are they telling us? The one that comes to mind as you're asking that question is just think of Mary and Joseph. There are a couple of kids and they were engaged and they were going to get married and they were. The Bible tells us that Joseph deeply loved Mary. And then she comes and says, this angel came to me and told me that.
Right. And I'm going to carry the Messiah. And I am a virgin. But just so you know, and isn't it interesting that God doesn't send the angel first to Joseph? He challenges Joseph to just kind of trust her.
And of course, he's like the girl a little bit cray cray. I'm going to put her away privately because I love her. And then I love that God gives her Elizabeth, that older mentor. She goes away to be with her cousin who's pregnant with John the Baptist. And immediate Elizabeth sees her and says, yeah, you are pregnant with the Messiah.
This baby that's within me just left within my womb. And then here's Joseph out there trying to figure it out. And then God comes to him and gives him a dream and says, take this woman to be your wife. What I love about all of those Old Testament accounts is God's character, because a lot of times God doesn't show up immediately when he challenges us to do something that's a huge act of faith. And he doesn't surround us with a bunch of people that cheer us on and say, oh, yeah, I totally believe God's calling you to do that.
You've got the practical people that are like, what are you thinking? You can't do that. And so Joseph comes, she comes back and he takes her as his bride. What a beautiful romance story.
And then to think of why am I tearing up? He delivered the Messiah. It was just her and him in the inn. No, no room in the inn. The manger.
The manger. He delivered this baby. And, you know, there's something romantic about even when you have a child and your spouse is in the room with you. I was in labor for 52 hours with my first child. You just earned a gold star from all the ladies listening. No drugs, no meds.
Back in the window when she was in 83, I had a hippie doula that was like, oh, no, it's better. Don't take. And I'm like, OK, I want to be a good mom.
I'm not going to take any drugs. But she knows Steve sat by my side and he encouraged me and he held my hand and he coached me. That's real life romance. Well, you treated him pretty well.
Yeah. All that was going on. Gene was like, give me the drugs.
But there's so many real life romance stories that we miss in our own love stories because it's just life and we just move forward. But if we step back and encourage yourself to think about when he showed up for you, when you showed up for him. Steve shattered his hip in a dirt bike accident 13 years ago. It was rough. He has a metal plate.
I say he has buns of steel now. And I had to take care of him. And it was three months of him just really not being able to do much at all. And I remember he would just say, babe, I'm so sorry because this injury, you know, whatever. But I remember telling him this gives me an opportunity to show you how much I love you in a way I never would have been able to show you.
Did it test you at all? Oh, yeah. I mean, seriously, you sound so angelic and I want to make sure. No, we both wept. But, you know, I had been if we're preparing our hearts before a trial comes.
And I had been reading a book and it was called the subtitle was Fighting for Joy. And I remember when he was in the hospital and the entire time that we were going through all he was in traction for nine days. That's like, can I get some water?
I mean, I broke my ankle and she had to do that. So I really I do know how. And Nehemiah 8 10 just kept coming over my mind. And it's the joy of the Lord is your strength. And so when the word, you know, in Psalm one, he says, your word I've hidden in my heart that I might not sin against you. There is a secret formula to taking our thoughts captive and it comes from being washed with truth and having it in there.
So when those things come, we're prepared. When did Nehemiah tell them the joy of the Lord is your strength? When they were building a wall with one hand, a trowel in one hand and a sword and the other fighting off the enemy that was going to maybe attack them.
Also, that was challenging their character, lying about them, saying that their motives weren't pure. Well, I'm a pastor's wife. If you're trying to build your house with one hand and you've got people coming at you with, you know, questioning your integrity or your motives or whatever. You can either pick up the burden of all of that or you can fight for joy, which is what Nehemiah said. The success to your battle is the joy of the Lord is your strength. Amen.
I like that. You know, your older daughter, Meredith, has had some difficulty too. What's happened for her and her husband and how have they struggled through and loved each other through difficulty?
Yeah. Meredith and Jake met at the Master's University and he jumped up on the table in the cafeteria, imitating, I believe it was a velociraptor. That's a great way to court your future bride. And she walks in and he's this six foot four baseball player and funny guy and the table collapsed underneath him and all everybody's food went everywhere. And Meredith, his eyes met Meredith and she was embarrassed for him. And she walked out and he was embarrassed that she saw him.
Anyway, long story. They fall in love. It's the beginning of a love affair.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. And they get married. And she's like, not about dating, you know, just like and he writes her this poem and it's basically something like roses are red, violets are blue. I don't know.
Maybe I think I might like you. And she's just like, oh, no, that's way too much. That's too serious for me. And she runs the other way.
He's confused. And then they end up married and they had they had a child at one point and then they had ectopic pregnancy, which was really a difficult situation for them. And then Meredith had a number of miscarriages. And at the same time, my daughter, Kayla, had had a miscarriage. Meredith got pregnant again and gave birth to Ivy Ivy Love, who is a treasure to our family. And when she was born, our whole family converged in the room to celebrate finally this birth of a new baby, because we'd only had at that point one grandchild. And Jake stops us and he said, something's wrong with Ivy and we don't know what it is and what it is.
It's called golden heart syndrome. She had facial cranial deformities. But it wasn't they didn't know anything about it till she was born. And they scooped Ivy away from Meredith and Meredith was saying, I want my baby.
Where's my baby? So that was interesting to watch how Jake just ministered to Meredith. And I went over to Ivy and I was singing to her and she was saying, Jesus loves me. I have a terrible voice. And I'm like, somebody needs to sing to this child because she's going to pick up grandma's bad off tone. And she quieted. And then in the night they had she flunked her hearing test and they said she couldn't hear.
And my son Brandon, whose love story is also in the book, Brandon and Jesse, he's a musician, worship leader in Southern California. Brandon stayed up all night just pleading with the Lord that Ivy wouldn't be deaf. And the next morning she passed her hearing test and our family was just celebrating.
We were all staying in the apartment on campus at the Masters University while this was going on. And Jake was ministering to Meredith. That's real life romance. They prayed together. They trusted the Lord together as Goldenheart as a syndrome.
So a lot of things came through. But at one point, Meredith said, this isn't our struggle. It's Ivy struggle. And God's called us to prepare her to walk through this trial and just watching them love each other and trust the Lord through that. That's real life romance. Yeah. Rhonda, I'm mindful of couples that they may be in the middle of a struggle.
I mean, right now. And they don't have the handles. They don't have the terrain to get their footing to draw closer together through challenges. How can they find that footing? They need to seek out a biblical counselor. They need to go to their pastor.
They need to go to a godly mentor when you're in the middle of it. And especially when you're even when you are prepared for a trial. It's still, you know, the Bible says, don't be surprised that these various trials come upon you. But we're still shocked. We know bad things happen to good people.
But when it happens to us, we're just we want to say why. I remember I just shattered my wrist. I'm sitting here with a brace on my hand because we just rolled a quad and I shattered my wrist. And it was painful.
And for two months, I was just laying in bed with this pain. And, you know, the Bible says rejoice in the Lord always and again, I say rejoice. And as I was laying there, canceling speaking engagements and other things that I really wanted to go do as I was laying there.
I had to really ponder that. What does that mean? Rejoice in the Lord always. And it doesn't mean rejoice in the circumstance. It's rejoicing in the Lord.
So I just had to sit there and go over what I knew to be true about him and rejoice in who he is and his character. But find someone that will speak that truth into your life when you're going through those trials. Find someone we comfort those with the comfort that we ourselves have been comforted. Find someone who has struggled with infertility, who has had a miscarriage, who's had a special needs child, who's dealing with that, you know, out of the blue diagnosis.
And ask them to walk with you, help you keep your eyes on Christ, because the ocean is going to drown you. And I think that's the key. And here at Focus, we want to be that friend for you and come alongside you. If you're in that tough spot, call us. Let us talk with you. Let us help you with resources that will help build that bridge that you need. And Rhonda, one resource I really recommend is your great book, Real Life Romance. It's such a wonderful tool for husbands and wives to be inspired that they can have that strong, godly relationship they've always wanted.
I probably don't have time to share this story, but James and Missy's love stories in this book in Real Life Romance, and they had some struggles. He went off to Iraq. He was deployed. And she said, I decided to be a student of marriage and I listened to Focus on the Family every day. And I realized my sin in our marriage that I wanted him to change. But when I finally put that before the Lord and she said every day, by the time he came home, she said his deployment was the best thing for us.
Because by the time he came home, I was ready to be the wife I meant to be when we got married. That's a powerful story. So contact us. We're here for you. And if you share our passion for helping couples who are struggling, I want to invite you to join our team of financial supporters.
It's that simple. God is doing amazing things through our listeners who are committed to supporting the broadcast financially. Some give consistent monthly support and others a one-time gift. Every bit means so much to helping others. And giving makes you feel good, too. One wife and mom wrote to tell us that she started giving to Focus when she and her husband became empty nesters. She said that supporting Focus financially helped her find new ways to invest time, energy, and financial support to the Kingdom of God.
And I love that. If you can give a gift of any amount to Focus today, I want to send you a copy of Rhonda's book, Real Life Romance, as our way of saying thank you. And you can get connected with a counselor and donate and also get Rhonda's book by clicking on the link in the episode notes. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening to Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.
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