Maria Goff has made a career out of loving her family and neighbors, raising her children, and turning houses into homes. She is married to Bob Goff, whom she calls the most helpful and interesting man in the world. They’ve journeyed to Uganda and Northern Iraq to start schools for kids who are marginalized. They have three adult kids, who are starting families of their own. They live in San Diego, where she and Bob continue to dream about fun and adventures yet to be had with their growing family. Here Maria’s shares insights from her book, Love Lives Here: Finding What You Need in a World Telling You What You Want.
Q. When did you decide to write this book?
A. After my husband Bob wrote Love Does, many questions started pouring in for me, surprisingly, about what I thought of the book, what our lives and family together was like, what dating Bob was like, so I decided I should write a book to answer those questions. I was also motivated by the fact that I know so many of us fall into the trap of listening to what the world says is a successful and meaningful life. I wanted to create and hold a space for people to reflect on their own lives and what they mean, away from the distractions of the world. In Love Lives Here, I shared my own stories, and many of them were painful and grapple with extreme loss and childhood trauma, but I do not think I’m unique. Now that I’m in my 50s and can look back over my life and the people I’ve encountered whose stories I’ve heard, I think we all struggle with and desire the same things. We all want love, connection, and meaning. I believe that God purposefully wants us to experience a lot and to learn from both the hard times and the good times, so I included it all.
Q. You say you don’t think you’re unique, but you do have a unique way of explaining common experiences and relatable feelings: your writing is poetic but also instantly accessible.
A. Thank you so much. I think that comes from my heart just longing to be relatable — that’s my overriding desire. Of all the stories I could share about different things I’ve experienced or that Bob and I have done in our marriage, raising our kids, seeing the world, I handpicked the ones that I thought would be the most relatable. I believe in the power of sharing a story. The point isn’t the story itself, really, but to forge a connection between the teller and audience. I hope these stories pull us together.
Q. Before we go any further, for those who don’t know, tell me a little more about Bob and what he’s known for.
A. Bob is a tour de force! [laughs] Bob was an attorney for about 25 years, before founding Restore International, a non-profit created to help children who are victimized around the world. His book Love Does was a New York Times bestseller, and today, after serving as a U.S. diplomat and becoming Honorary Consul for the Republic of Uganda, he gives talks and continues to come up with crazy, brilliant ideas to help people. I am so grateful I get to help him make those ideas happen.
Q. I love what you write about kids not being afraid of their ideas — and how they live in constant anticipation of what’s next, not in fear of it. Now that we’re grown, how do we get some of that back?
A. I love kids. They’re just the best. It feels like we come into the world with the abilities to dream, believe, and not be afraid. But this is a fallen world. Life is hard, and that reality can consume us. As adults, I think we can get that childlike eagerness and courage back only by going through inevitable hard things. When we push through pain, we’re forced to develop “muscles” that help us be brave and strong. The more we face, the stronger we can get. I also believe in God. That means I know that no matter what I go through, God is there. He promises he’ll be with us the whole way. I believe that he’s been with me during every trauma — from childhood trauma to the fire that destroyed our family’s beloved lodge. He’s there through loss, grief, lost childhoods. Knowing that and trusting him makes me believe that I can do anything every morning when I wake up.
Learn more about Love Lives Here from author Maria Goff.
Q. You explore how you and Bob are different in a wonderful way that doesn’t elevate one side over the other. I love this line: “If you feel like your ambition isn’t big enough because it’s not the same ambition someone you love has, don’t buy the lie and change who you are.” Can you talk about that realization a bit?
A. One of the biggest traps for people in any relationship, not just marriage, is the compulsion to compare ourselves with each other. Comparison can do so much damage to your self-esteem and self-worth, and it can tear relationships apart. I know because I’ve been there with the comparisons. I found myself doing it early in our marriage because Bob is wonderful, and he’s also kind of everything I’m not, especially his energy level and creativity. As a believer in God, I’ve come to realize that there is a real enemy among us, and that enemy whispers lies: “Bob’s so much better than you. He has so many more gifts. He’s smarter than you.” Early in our marriage, I was insecure and trying to heal from my own wounds. But, as I grew in my faith in God, I started to change. Bob also loves, adores, and cherishes me, and always called out my strengths. I believe God used him in that way. I started to realize my life had value — that my gifts are just different. In the book, I talk about the relationship between a balloon and a string. Bob is the balloon — dazzling and adventurous—and I’m the string — anchoring and practical. They’re equally important, and together, they make a fun toy. Figure out what your relationship is — what you make together. Then protect it, nurture it, and let it grow.
Q. You share your and Bob’s love story, and it’s so inspiring. We don’t hear enough stories like that today.
A. I’m glad it’s getting out there. I hope it encourages others. If there is one thing that I hope Love Lives Here moves readers to realize, it’s that whatever they’re missing in their lives right now is possible. I urge readers not to believe the lies the world feeds us: “It doesn’t matter, It can never be that good. It’s just a dream.” Those are lies. God can do anything in our lives.
Q. You write a lot in the book about loving people uninhibitedly, whether it’s your kids, your neighbors, your family, or people you don’t even know. Why?
A. Instead of feeling like we need to be stingy with love — like we’re going to run out because we only have so many tickets at the carnival –– we need to give it away freely. Don’t wait for a plan or an invitation, either. Just do it.
Q. It’s one thing to be facedown as you’re going through something in real time. But you also write about the importance of reflection and diving past the surface of our past — truly dealing with it. Why?
A. It has to do with the juxtaposition hinted at in the book’s subtitle — finding what we need in a world telling us what we want. The world is so good at keeping things on the surface, promoting stuff that’s shiny and easier. I have found that when I dig deep and keep going, determined to keep growing, I discover a richness that is unmatched. As hard as it was for me to write and share some of the stories in my book, I know it’s worth it. I’ve encountered God in the dark places, and indescribable beauty. By telling my stories, I can offer hope and encouragement to someone else — because when they reflect on who they are and where they’ve been, ignoring the debris and clutter, they’ll find that beauty, too.