SPRING HILL — As of Thursday, Spring Hill resident Suzanne Bland has been married to her husband, Tom, for 48 years. According to the title of a book she released in December, she is Married and Loving It!
"Thank you for being my best friend and a wonderful example to our children," Suzanne wrote in a tribute to Tom several years ago in a church program.
Those sentiments are a large part of the foundation for the book, which bills itself on its title page as "A Guide for Christian Women Who Desire a Better Marriage."
The 98-page, spiral-bound book is self-published. Bland, 66, felt the topic was one that needs to be addressed and said that God led her to write it.
"It breaks my heart to see so many marriages having a hard time and a lot of times it's just from lack of knowledge," Bland said in an interview. "It was a burden to me as a Christian to see women spend so much time preparing for a perfect wedding, but they could care less what was going to happen down the road."
A seventh-generation Floridian and 30-year resident of Hernando County featured in a St. Petersburg Times article in 1978 as the founder and president of CB'ers for Christ, Bland said she first felt being led by God to write Married and Loving It! many years ago.
"Something that has always been on my heart is family values," said the retired Realtor and design consultant. "I knew I had to write a book, but sometimes I felt like I couldn't do it, and I would get busy and push it away. But it would come up again."
Meanwhile, Bland would record her thoughts and add to them or change them as she encountered life's experiences.
"It was a process," she said about her book-writing endeavor. "Part of the process was that the Lord wanted certain things in there that I had to learn."
Giving advice on having a successful marriage is not new to Bland. In 1993, she and Tom appeared several times on a television program on Christian Television Network called Together Again where they talked about family values and Suzanne demonstrated some recipes. Their younger daughter, Darlene, sang on the program.
In 1995, the couple became certified as prayer and share leaders, qualifying them to establish marriage advance home groups under the cover of Couples United in Christ Ministries.
"For several years, we opened our home up to married couples for a once-a-month time together," Bland said. "We had approximately 12 or 15 couples at a time. We actually called it 'Married and Loving It.' I decided to use the name for the book after using it with our group."
Blands says there are several important elements to making a marriage work, including commitment, unselfishness, spending time together, the importance of sex, communication and agreement about finances.
She advises women on a variety of topics, including housecleaning, personal appearance, child rearing — including a question-and-answer section — and cooking, with some favorite recipes.
"Before leaving the bedroom in the morning, make the bed, gather any dirty clothes and towels and place them in the washer," she advises. "Keep a separate basket nearby for the dark clothes. By doing this, in one step you have sorted your laundry and when the washer is full, all you have to do is start the washer."
Much of Bland's household advice relates to time management.
"Once a month tackle something that needs to be done, such as cleaning out a drawer, washing curtains, etc." she writes. "Don't get discouraged. It takes time, but little by little things will get done."
Making your family members feel special is important, Bland writes.
"The most important person to dress up for is your husband," is her admonition.
Bland makes it clear with the use of Bible verses throughout the book that her practical advice is inspired by her personal relationship with God. She includes suggestions for personal devotions, keeping a prayer journal and scripture memorization.
"Always start your day with prayer," she writes.
In discussing "The Secrets of a Good Marriage" in one chapter, she writes: "A marriage is more than staying together; it is a commitment to each other and in a Christian's life, it is also a commitment to the Lord."
For those who may not be Christians, Bland includes Bible verses and a prayer to help them along their way and gives a testimony of her and her husband's conversion experience in 1975.
While the book is written for Christian women of all denominations, Bland makes reference to some personal experiences, such as speaking in tongues, that indicate her bent.
"I'm definitely full Gospel as far as believing in all the gifts," she said.
Bland's devotion to her family is evident throughout the book. The final section is called "Our Memory Lane" and contains several pages of photographs of Bland's family members, including her two daughters, Landa and Darlene, and four grandchildren, Michael, Lindsey, Daniel and Sarah. That section concludes with a tribute to men and women in the armed forces and includes photos of her Marine grandson, Michael, who is currently serving in Japan, and a niece, Dawn, stationed with the Army in Afghanistan.
Bland said several people, including some men, have told her that the book has been a help to them.
"People are realizing that marriage is work," she said. "You shouldn't even think about getting married if you're not ready to roll up your sleeves."
Bland concludes Married and Loving It! with a benediction to the reader that reveals her hopes for the book.
"It is my heart's desire that this guide has been a blessing to you. May the Lord richly bless your life."