Family Talk Night Light for Couples



by Roy J. Reiman

It bothered Ben every time he walked through the kitchen. It was that little metal container on the shelf above Martha’s cook stove. He probably would not have noticed it so much or been bothered by it if Martha had not repeatedly told him never to touch it. The reason, she said, was that it contained a “secret herb” from her mother, and since she had no way of refilling the container, she was concerned that if Ben or anyone else ever picked it up and looked inside, they might accidentally drop it and spill its valuable contents.

The container wasn’t really much to look at. It was so old that much of its original red and gold floral pattern had faded. You could tell right where it had been gripped again and again when the container was lifted and its tight lid pulled off. Not only Martha’s fingers had gripped it there; her mother’s and her grandmother’s had, too. Martha didn’t know for sure, but she thought that perhaps even her great‐grandmother had used this same container and its “secret herb.”

All Ben knew for certain was that shortly after he had married Martha, her mother had brought the container to Martha and told her to make the same loving use of its contents as she had.

And she did, faithfully. Ben never saw Martha cook a dish without taking the container off the shelf and sprinkling just a little of the secret herb over the ingredients. Even when she baked cakes, pies, and cookies, she added a light sprinkling just before she put the pans in the oven.

Whatever was in that container, it sure worked, for Ben thought that Martha was the best cook in the world. He wasn’t alone in that opinion— anyone who ever ate at their house grandly praised Martha’s cooking.

But why wouldn’t she let Ben touch that little container? Was she really afraid he’d spill its contents? And what did that secret herb look like? It was so fine that whenever Martha sprinkled it over the food she was preparing, Ben couldn’t quite make out its texture. She obviously had to use very little of it because there was no way to refill the container.

Somehow Martha had stretched those contents over thirty years of marriage, and it had never failed to effect mouth‐watering results.

Ben became increasingly tempted to look into that container just once, but he never brought himself to do so.

Then one day Martha became ill. Ben took her to the hospital, where they kept her overnight. When he returned home, he found it extremely lonely in the house. Martha had never been gone overnight before. And when it neared suppertime, he wondered what to do— Martha had so loved to cook that he had never bothered to learn much about preparing food.

When he wandered into the kitchen to see what was in the refrigerator, he immediately saw the container on the shelf. His eyes were drawn to it like a magnet. He quickly looked away, but his curiosity drew him back.

What was in that container? Why wasn’t he to touch it? What did that secret herb look like? How much of it was left?

Ben looked away again and lifted the cover of a large cake pan on the kitchen counter. Ahh… there was more than half of one of Martha’s great cakes left. He cut off a large piece, sat down at the kitchen table, and hadn’t taken more than one bite when his eyes went back to that container again. What would it hurt if he looked inside? Why was Martha so secretive about that container, anyway?

Ben took another bite and debated with himself—should he or shouldn’t he? For five more big bites he thought about it, staring at the container. Finally he could no longer resist.

He walked slowly across the room and ever so carefully took the container off the shelf, fearing that—horror of horrors—he’d spill the contents while sneaking a peek.

He set the container on the counter and carefully pried off the lid. He was almost scared to look inside! When the inside of the container came into full view, Ben’s eyes opened wide. Why, the container was empty—except for a little folded scrap of paper at the bottom.

Ben reached down for the paper, struggling to get his big rugged hand inside. He carefully picked it up by a corner, removed it, and slowly unfolded it under the kitchen light.

A brief note was scrawled inside, and Ben immediately recognized the handwriting as that of Martha’s mother. Very simply it said: “Martha—To everything you make, add a dash of love.”

Ben swallowed hard, replaced the note and the container, and quietly went back to finishing his cake. Now he completely understood why it tasted so good.


Even though for the first thirty years of their marriage, Ben couldn’t quite identify his wife’s “secret herb,” he knew it was there—and that it made a wonderful difference in his wife’s cooking. If you’re the wife in the marriage partnership, I suspect that you have added your own secret ingredient to many aspects of your marriage.

We’ll be talking about the role of a wife this week and offering several definitions, but most of it boils down to this: As you help and care for your husband, add a dash of love to everything you do.

– James C Dobson

  • From Night Light For Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson
    Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • “Martha’s Secret Ingredient” by Roy J. Reiman, courtesy of Reminisce magazine. Used by permission

Family Talk Night Light for Couples


Duration: 365 days


“For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord.” Genesis 18:19

Perhaps the most important aspect of a husband’s headship in the home is his role as spiritual leader. When all is said and done, can there be anything more important to a husband than promoting the spiritual health of his wife and children while on earth and being reunited with them in heaven?

One of the things that has impressed me most about Jim during all these years is his dedication to our family’s spiritual life and the example he has set for me, Danae, and Ryan. Our first date was a Sunday evening church service, and he has never wavered from his commitment to church, especially in terms of tithing and attendance. So many times when our children were still at home, Jim would return from a trip late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, then get up and go to Sunday school. I know he was dead on his feet from fatigue, but he didn’t want his kids to see him lying in bed on the Sabbath. Early in our marriage, Jim also established routines for family devotionals, prayer time, and Bible study (admittedly at times more consistently than others). That was such a blessing for our children as they grew up in the Lord and was, and is, so encouraging to me.

Husbands, I urge you to take stock of your family’s spiritual life. Are you setting the proper example? Are you establishing times for you, your wife, and your kids to mature in God’s Word? You may stumble occasionally as you nurture your family’s faith, just as we have, but I encourage you to be a husband who stays the course. That’s the kind of leader your wife wants and needs—and the kind the Lord desires as well.

– Shirley M Dobson

  • From Night Light For Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson
    Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.



by Jodi Detrick

It felt so good to be curled up on the couch after spending most of the day on the go. I had just put the teakettle on and was relaxing while watching the Boston Pops Orchestra on television. Jana, our eleven-year-old music-loving daughter sat in the big blue chair nearby, while across the room Don lounged in the recliner, a book in his hands as usual.

Anne Murray was the guest soloist with the orchestra, and it was easy to reminisce as she sang songs popular in my youth. When one particular love ballad came on, “Could I Have This Dance” (for the rest of my life), my eyes met Don’s and we smiled at each other. The song had once been a favorite of ours.

Spontaneously, I rose from the couch and with a grand bow toward Don said, “Would you care to dance, sir?” With a gleam in his eye, he met me in the middle of the living room. The funny thing is that dancing had never been part of our courtship. Neither of us had ever really danced in our lives.

I giggled as we tried to assume a waltzing position and started swaying to the music.

“I think you’re supposed to do something with your feet,” Don said, and he began to shuffle his steps this way and that. I laughed even harder as we stepped in a pattern that would cause Arthur Murray to roll over (gracefully) in his grave. Jana watched quietly from her chair as we continued our clumsy dance and even stole a kiss or two between our bouts of laughter.

Just then the teakettle, with no invitation from the conductor, brashly added its off-key whistle to the music, signaling an abrupt end to our fun. Breathless, I pushed myself away from Don’s arms to go rescue the teakettle.

“No…stay!” Instantly, Jana was off her chair and scurrying into the kitchen.

“It’s okay, Jana. I’ll get it,” I started to protest. But I was too late; Jana pulled the kettle off the burner and turned off the heat.

Once again her words came, and the intensity of command in her young voice caught me off guard.

“No…stay!” This time I could see her arm go up and toward us like a miniature traffic cop hailing an oncoming truck. So we again swayed and stumbled to music that ended all too soon.

Later, as everyone prepared for bed, I wondered about the seriousness on Jana’s sweet little face and her strange, earnest command. As she climbed between her sheets, I sat on her bed for “tucking in” time. We talked for a few minutes, as we always do, about special needs we could pray about together. Our prayer list ranged from school issues to the war in Bosnia and many things in between. Then she added one more item.

“Mom,” she said softly, “my friend’s parents still aren’t sleeping in the same room anymore, and now they aren’t even talking.”

This close schoolmate had recently confided in Jana about her parents’ marital struggles. Jana carried her friend’s heavy burden seriously, bringing it only to me to take to Jesus in prayer. Together we asked God to please heal this marriage and end the deep sadness in this girl’s heart.

“Jana, is she worried that her parents will split up?” I asked.

“I guess. She really doesn’t like to talk about it much.”

“I understand,” I said.

And now I did. So many of Jana’s friends were from homes that had been ripped apart by divorce. She had seen, through the young eyes of her peers, the painful aftermath. Now, once again, a friend’s happiness and security—this time, a very close friend—were being threatened by the potential divorce of her parents.

I understood. “No…stay!” was a plea to us. It really said, “Please stay in love…stay committed to each other and to our home…keep laughing together…stay partners even when you step on each other’s toes in the crazy dance of marriage.” It said, “No, don’t let the busyness of your lives, the whistling lure of other teakettles, of pleasure in other places, separate your embrace…no, don’t be too tired and too preoccupied to hear the music of young love…keep lighting up when you look into the other’s eyes across a room. Just…stay.”

By this time, everyone was asleep in my home except for me and the One who never sleeps. We talked quietly for a while, and then before I crawled into bed beside my slumbering dance partner, I promised Him again that I would stay.

Looking ahead…

Our world is changing, and not always for the better. Today’s kids must contend with dangers that were virtually unheard-of during my childhood: school shootings, gang wars, illegal drugs, sexual molesters, kidnappers, and terrorists. Yet the greatest threat to a child’s sense of security and well-being has nothing to do with these outside forces. It is, instead, the fear that Mom and Dad might one day break up the family.

Kids desperately want and need a stable, secure environment in which to grow. It’s what God wants for your family, too. We’ll offer several suggestions this week about how you can provide an atmosphere of safety and stability for your children. It all starts with a commitment between you and your partner to nurture your relationship—that wonderful and challenging “dance of marriage.”

If you are reading this tonight as a single mom or dad, I especially want to offer you a word of encouragement. Children who have suffered the loss of a parent through divorce or death are particularly vulnerable to uncertainty about the future and fears of abandonment. Your kids need extra reassurance that you will always be there for them. Kind words and gentle hugs, as well as consistent application of boundaries, express your love and commitment to provide a stable environment for your children.

You and your kids can also draw comfort from passages in Scripture written especially for you: “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling” (Psalm 68:5). Perhaps the best news for you and your family is simply knowing that you are never alone: “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Jesus is standing right beside us every moment.

– James C. Dobson

  • From Night Light For Parents, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson
    Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.

“Stay!” by Jodi Detrick. © 2001. Jodi, a pastor’s wife, author, and speaker, lives with her husband of twenty-eight years in their newly emptied nest. Jana, their youngest, is a freshman at Northwest College in Kirkland, Washington. Used by permission of the author.