Book Launch – Marriage, Thistles & Flowers By Barnie & Grace Achoki

Finishing writing a book is such a milestone. Publishing the book even a greater milestone. That’s why today we hold time for a moment to celebrate the new authors and the new book into the publishing and reading world.

This is Barnie and Grace Achoki, they have been married for 25 years. They have 3 children 21, 18 & 13, two boys and a girl. They are Pastors and Marriage Coaches.

The journey to writing their book begun in 2009 when Barnie was asked by a friend if they could do articles for their daily Newspaper. What started as a hobby ended up in 2011 with Barnie and Grace being a columnist in the People Daily Newspaper. And so for about ten years they have answered and advised on marriage and relationship questions.

 

WHY THIS BOOK?

We speak a lot in marriage conferences, retreats, seminars, and churches. Each time we have spoken somewhere the common question people asked us was “Do you have a book?” Being the procrastinator that I am I kept postponing writing a book waiting for an opportune moment like Felix in the Bible.

Grace challenged me that we collect all the questions we have answered and advice we have given in the Newspaper all these years and make them into a book. They say two are better than one, so Grace dragged me to the CLC Kenya’s offices early last year. One of our goals that year was to write a book. After chatting with Muthoni Mercy for about an hour this idea was born.

We gave CLC Kenya all our work (thank God for technology), and the CLC staff compiled them. Working with them we came up with the different chapters. Thus began our journey and now almost 18 months later here it is. It has been worthwhile journey and we have enjoyed every moment of it. Once again many thanks to CLC Kenya for making this dream come true. God bless you abundantly

You may ask why the title, Marriage Thistles, and Flowers? The Thistles speak of the challenges many couples face in marriage. The questions asked and advice sought for are the marriage thistles. The solutions given are the flowers – the good part of marriage. When we seek help and endeavor to talk and resolve the issues we end up with the flowers in marriage. 

Marriage is indeed a bed of roses (Flowers) but roses have thorns (Thistles) as well. 

From this, it seems like you do counseling together?

Yes, we do – we are one of the rare ones who do it together. That way couples get to hear from both sides. The questions in the book also are from both the male and female perspectives. That makes it well rounded

On the target audience, is it a book for Christian couples or non-Christian couples can also benefit from it?

This book is for both Christian couples and non-Christian couples because both groups desire a great marriage. But we are primarily targeting the non-Christian couples because that’s how we reach out to them. Over eighty percent of the couples we deal with are non-Christians (that is the non-church going couples). We have realized that by helping them in this way, many have turned to God. Thus we have deliberately not quoted Scriptures here though have alluded to them.

Our basis is Christianity as we believe that God is the originator of the institution of marriage and the Bible is the manual. Our guiding principle here is following Jesus’ instructions as He sent His disciples to the world to be as wise as a serpent but as gentle as a dove. I hope I have answered your question.

This is the same as Peter who was sent to the Jews and Paul to the Gentiles. It’s what we had talked about in previous forums that everyone should understand and stay on their lanes. That’s where our graces are at. Both to the Jews and the Gentiles, none is superior to the other, and approaches are different for both. If you try a good approach to the wrong group, you will get a backlash and feel very frustrated. Even Peter could not handle it to the Gentiles (he became hypocritical) and Paul could not be accepted by the Jews. But look at how their ministries did well in the right groups – they prospered?

Congratulations Pastors, you are a trailblazer. I always advise nothing goes to waste, look at the use of accumulated newspaper articles generated over time doing what you love -  creating value in the family set-up. Pastor, you have a great ministry where the family is under attack. 

Are there more books coming?

Of course, with CLC Kenya as our publishers, we are looking at having one answering singles’ questions on relationships. This is an area of great need because many problems in marriage are a result of a lack of knowledge of relationships.

We have also come up with two workbooks, one on pre-marital coaching and another on navigating conflict for young couples. Both of these are COVID-19 products.

We also hope to come up with another workbook to help couples navigate mid-life. So yes, more still to come.

What do you consider to be the number one problem in the marriage?

Our backgrounds. We are a product of where we are coming from and all that we have experienced in the past. We usually tell couples that our default setting in marriage is our parents’ marriages or the marriage relationship we saw and experienced growing up.

Without preempting what’s in your book, why are divorces from well-grounded backgrounds on the rise?

This is true even in the church circles. As a church, we can no longer bury our heads in the sand and assume this.

We don’t recommend divorce, but there are situations when it is inevitable. And those situations are not even adultery as we have known in the past. We have helped many couples who were dealing with adultery and helped them find healing and restoration for their marriages. Some of those marriages are some of the strongest marriages I know today.

We have increasingly noted that situations like physical and more importantly emotional abuse call for separation more often nowadays. There must first be a separation before even considering divorce. When all efforts for reconciliation are futile then a couple is left with no option but divorce. Divorce is only a last resort, not the first option.

Have you touched on courtship as well, or it is all about the already married?

We have touched a bit on a courtship as some of the marriage problems we experience are as a result of not courting properly. There are things that one could have picked up during courtship but ignored. Those things come to bite the couple later in their marriage.

We are planning to do another book on courtship to help young people before they say “I Do”. We also highly recommend that people are coached through courtship long before they start talking about a wedding date and going for negotiations. From experience, we don’t do any pre-marital counseling for less than six months to the wedding.

Great perspectives, how do you cope with “the microwave” aspects of life – Everything Now! Have you touched on waiting in your book?

Yes, that’s why we have a chapter on conflict resolution. We say for marriage to work, it takes work. That work involves patience, effort, prayer, and perseverance.

I enjoyed your columns in the newspapers because they are real and practical. You remind me of the surgeon's diary, Yusuf Dawood, who majored in medicine humor with great success penning over four books. You are on the right track and we are your fans and followers.

Wow! Very interesting because I’m a great fan of Surgeon Yusuf Dawood too. It’s his writings that have inspired me to write. And like him, some of the cases you will read in this book are real-life cases of the clients we have dealt with only that the names have been changed. This has also helped us to be relevant to our culture as most marriage books in the market have a western mindset bias.

How do you handle the quietness in marriages?. Where the persons involved are not talking but they are always ‘thinking’… And most of the time in the wrong direction?

For example you see a couple going through a lot. You can see the solution to their problem but they don’t see it themselves. They each have their own opinions about what’s going on but they are not bold enough to tell their spouses – a fear of some sort. So there is silent-treatment going on from both ends. And neither of the spouses is ready to address it. How then do you offer help? 

Very true. We need skills to help us draw out what is inside. There’s a verse in Proverbs 1:25 that says “The things in a man’s heart are deep, but a man of wisdom knows how to draw them out”. Asking instead of assuming or attacking can draw out what is inside of your spouse.

So often in our sessions, we have been amazed when a spouse has said something that the other spouse was hearing for the first time. Sometimes it is also that we don’t feel safe with each other. Reading a book together or reading something abstract to your spouse and asking them what they feel or think about that can trigger such good conversations.

In many cases, the man seems to agree to financial planning when the finances are low but it does not happen when they are in abundance. Three days ago a friend asked me for advice on what to do because the husband seems to put her aside when finances are in plenty. He does all the financial planning which sometimes ends up in disaster. Now they are about to be auctioned. The only thing that has helped them is the pandemic because it has kept the bank away. This lady was telling me she wishes the husband could just consult her so they plan together.

Interestingly in this book, we talk about financial infidelity that is worse than even physical infidelity. This is a lack of trust and when you cannot trust your spouse with money, what or who else can you not trust them with. Sometimes money matters are not just about money, they reveal a lot about certain underlying issues, values, control, etc. Maybe that’s why Jesus talked more about money than even prayer and heaven.

When I talk about our backgrounds, if you grew up where your father made all the financial decisions alone, as a man that’s likely to be your default setting. Even some of us men are advised by our fathers not to tell our wives about our financial dealings. And women too are advised to have secret accounts based on how your mother suffered.

Many of our mothers suffered greatly and so when they advise their daughters it’s from that place of pain. Many ladies too on the other hand saw their mothers suffer because of their father’s irresponsible behaviors. He got tea or coffee boom or retirement package and took off with another woman. So unconsciously a lady puts some money aside in case their husband does the same.

Pastor Achoki, there is this concept of “nothing box” common with men, do you experience it? How do you handle it in marriage because it appears as abstract?

Women keep trying to understand and remember this but it’s so hard for women because they can’t understand how someone can be thinking of “nothing”.

Kindly bear with men, research on “nothing box” phenomena is ongoing. All these people cannot be lying all these years? Until female researchers unearth the dilemma the confusion will persist on its existence.

What more do you cover in the book? 

Our hope through the book is that is that it will trigger conversations that couples talk about. Things like opposite-sex friendships that one spouse is not comfortable with and parenting of young and adult children. 

Your closing remarks?

Thank you all for the very interactive sessions we have had these past two days. Your questions, comments, and feedback have been very helpful. We have gleaned a lot from you, new ideas for other books have been birthed, and now we are very much inspired.

We want to especially thank Muthoni Mercy and the entire CLC Kenya for putting this forum together. As the Bible says, iron sharpens iron, and I believe that’s what the Authors Collaboration forum does – we sharpen each other. So go ahead and grab your copy plus extra copies for those couples around you.

How can readers further connect with you?

Please read the book and give us your honest feedback. That way we can come up with a second improved edition, or with another book.

Also, feel free to invite us (post-COVID) to your networks so we can help strengthen their families even as you help them in other areas. Together we can, let’s transform lives through our writing and books. God bless you all!

BOOK EXCERPT

Conflict: Work Colleagues

I’ve been married to this lovely lady for the last seven years. We have two girls and I must say our relationship has been okay except for the fact that recently, my wife started complaining about my relationship with one of my female colleagues. Our nature of work is such that we are always together with this female colleague and more than that, she also loves joining us (me and the boys) for a drink. I don’t understand why my wife is upset yet she is aware of this relationship and nothing is going on between me and my colleague. Could it be that my wife is insecure? Can’t a married man have female friends? Please advise!

Answer:

A married man can and may have female friends either from his place of work where he spends most of his time, from a social club or church or maybe even a childhood friendship or someone they went to college together with. But as it looks, your wife is not comfortable with this particular relationship and that should serve as a red flag for you. Why do we say this?

Your wife may be seeing something that you are not because for you it is your blind spot. You are too involved in the relationship to be objective enough. You might not realize but subtly, an emotional closeness may develop without the two of you noticing. An emotional affair to us is more dangerous than a physical one because here you deceive yourself that things are not that bad since you haven’t slept together yet.

Conflict: What if your female colleague is interested in you?

It’s just a matter of time before things develop further. Marriages go through different seasons and when it is that bad season in your marriage, you might just run to this relationship for comfort. We are all vulnerable and when we feel our unmet needs might be fulfilled elsewhere, we are bound to gravitate towards that place.

Let’s flip this thing around; suppose it was your wife having such a relationship with another man, will you be comfortable with that? It is good to consider your wife’s feelings even though for you there may be nothing going on between you and your colleague. When your wife is not comfortable with that relationship and you are not seeing, she is bound to feel threatened and yes become insecure in your marriage.

There is nothing wrong with this as she needs to protect her marriage. So for the sake of your wife, kill that relationship.

Finally, it is important to have boundaries where such relationships are concerned. Both you and your spouse need to agree on these boundaries. For example, how far should those relationships go? What should be done if one of you is not comfortable with that other relationship, and so on?

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