7 Secrets to a Happy Marriage

This month my in-laws will celebrate their 51st wedding anniversary. That’s a big feat, considering that half of most marriages today end in divorce! On August 22, Michael and I will celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary which certainly is not as long as my in-laws, but we are getting there!

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Therefore, although I do not consider myself an expert or anything, I thought I would share our “secrets” for a happy marriage. Of course, these aren’t really secrets at all, but they have helped us through the ups and downs that inevitably all couples face.

1. Pray Together. Living a faith-filled life together is the most important foundation to a happy marriage, and the foundation for a life of faith is prayer. It is not always possible to pray together. I know that from experience. Life gets busy, and with my husband being a truck driver, praying together can be a real challenge. We just do the best we can, and at the very least, we go to Mass together when he is home.

2. Pray for each other. It is not enough to pray together. Don’t forget to pray for your spouse, too! If he works outside the home, you never know how your prayers may support him in his daily struggles. I’m convinced that my prayers are helping to keep my husband safe on the road with all the driving he does!

3. Look at the positive. It can be way too easy, especially after you have been married for a while, to start criticizing your spouse, nagging or nitpicking over little things. I know that I am guilty of this, especially during certain times of the month. AHEM! To counterbalance this tendency, I try to make a point of listing at least two or three positive things about my husband. Some days are harder than others, but when I do this, it helps me get a better perspective about whatever it is I am griping about.

3B. To piggyback on #3, I want to encourage you not to bash your husbands in public. It is one thing to discuss marriage problems or situations with a friend or family member that you trust and confide in. It is a whole other beast if you trash your husband with a bunch of girlfriends during a gossip session. Nothing good can come from that. It breeds bad blood and only causes more trouble than good. Instead, try to avoid speaking negatively about your spouse in public. If things are that bad, I urge you to consult a priest or marriage counselor.

4. Forgive each other. As you know, no one is perfect. We all do and say things that hurt our husbands, as they do to us. Most of the time, though, the infractions are inadvertent. Someone is in a bad mood or had a rough day or not feeling well, and he or she takes it out on the other. Or, there is a breakdown in communication leading to fights about finances or chores or whatever. That’s why it is so important to forgive each other. If we don’t, those seemingly little things can build up into something very big, and potentially blow up in your face!

5. Communicate often. Communication, in my opinion, is the hardest part of marriage; and yet, it is so important. It is important to communicate small things, so that there is order, and to keep everyone on the same page. But it is equally important to communicate about big things. Oftentimes, before couples get married, they share their dreams, hopes, and fears. Sometimes those conversations end after couples are married for a while. But, they are even more important during marriage. True communication is important for fostering a connection with each other.

If you are your spouse struggle with communication, you are not alone. My “thing” is writing. It is so much easier for me to write how I feel or what’s in my heart, and so terribly difficult to speak those same feelings. If you have to, take the time to write letters to each other once in a while, and share what is in your heart. But, if you can verbalize your feelings, and learn to communicate effectively, it can bring your marriage to a whole other level of love, trust and connection.

6. Spend time together. Seems like a  no-brainer, but with different schedules, and children’s activities, and work and other obligations, I’m sure you know some couples (or even you and your husband) who can go days without seeing each other, let alone spending time together. My husband is on the road a lot, so I can go up to almost two weeks without seeing my husband. It is hard, and when he is home, he either has a short time to get some things done, or he is so exhausted, all he wants to do is crash on the couch. But relationships don’t last if they are neglected. They take work, and I encourage you to find creative ways to spend time with each other, instead of living separate lives.

7. Make love often. The Catholic Church has a reputation for being a “kill-joy” and “prudish” for restricting sex for marriage. The Church doesn’t restrict sex until marriage to hurt us, but to help us. Sex is a sacred and holy act, meant to be shared between a husband and wife. Within the context of marriage, sex is a beautiful, and fun, thing! Unfortunately, just like everything else, after a couple has been marriage for a while, sex can become routine, and  just another thing to do, or for some women, something to avoid. Please try not to let that happen. Try and find ways to keep that spark alive (barring any health issues).

Now it’s your turn. What are your “secrets” for a happy marriage? Please do share in the comments!

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(Image is in public domain)

Shhh! We are in Church!

I will never forget the day Andrew “shh-ed” everyone in Church. 🙂 He was four or five-years-old at the time and we were still living in Ohio. We had come back to New Jersey for a visit and we were in Church for a First Holy Communion.

While waiting for Mass to begin, a lot of people, including some family members behind us, were talking. Hearing the chatter, a person would think that there was a party going on, rather than a Church service about to begin. All of a sudden, Andrew stands up, turns around, and says,

“Shhh! We are in Church!”

Then he turned and sat down.

The people sitting around us were quiet for a moment and then because giggling and talking about how cute and funny Andrew was for what he said. It was adorable and cute, however, I think they missed the point.

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m NOT condemning anyone, or saying that it is wrong to talk in Church, or that we should go back to the days of absolute silence in Church. I’m just as guilty as everyone else when it comes to talking in Church.

However, have you noticed just how LOUD our world has become, both physically and metaphorically? We are constantly bombarded with TV, radio, social media, news, and other noises. So much so, in fact that we don’t even take some time before the Sacred Liturgy, to compose ourselves and prepare our hearts. On top of that, we also live very busy lives running here and there, taking care of family, and fulfilling our many obligations. These are all great things but when we talk, talk, talk, and go, go, go, it becomes impossible to listen. More importantly, it becomes almost impossible to hear God speak to us.

Silence

God WANTS to speak to us. He wants to heal us and minister to us but He can’t do that if we don’t take the time to settle down and wait for His voice. More than that, we NEED to spend time in silence in order to recharge our batteries and fill up our souls. We all know the saying, “we can’t give what we don’t have.” If we don’t take the time to fill our souls, listening to God in the silence of our hearts, we will burn out.

That’s why I really want to encourage you to find a way to make time for silence. Believe me, I know you are busy, but if you can get up even 15 minutes earlier to spend in silence and prayer, I guarantee it will make a difference in your life.

A couple of weeks ago, I told you about the Make Over Your Mornings e-course (aff) that I worked through. I have always been a morning person, but still, this course has made a big difference in how I manage my mornings (and my whole day). This BIGGEST difference for me has been in the consistency in which I have been spending my quiet/prayer time.

Since tweaking my evening/morning routines, I haven’t missed my morning prayer time once in two weeks! Every morning, I get up at 5:50am (usually a little before that), do my stretching/exercising, shower/dress, and then grab my prayer-book and bible and settle in for 15 minutes or so of scripture reading and meditation. Even on the days I have overslept, I have made my morning quiet time an absolute, and it has made a difference in my mood and in how I approach the day.

For you, you don’t have to take the e-course (aff) to change your routine (although I suggest you do!). All you have to do is make the commitment to get up just a few minutes earlier than everyone else and commit to using that time for silence and prayer. Easier said than done, I know, but if you work at for a few weeks, and it becomes a habit, I know that you will reap the rewards. I promise you.

By the way, if you do add quiet time and prayer into your morning routine, I’d love to know how it goes. If you are struggling, I’d love to offer my prayer support. And if it is going great, I’d love to hear how it has changed your life and/or outlook. So, leave a comment or email me!

Blessings.

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Happy Fourth of July! (And Some Thoughts on Independence)

Tomorrow is Independence Day and I want to send out a huge THANK YOU to the men and women who have sacrificed (and continue to sacrifice) so much – including their lives – for our freedom. We take so much for granted here in the United States that we sometimes forget that freedom isn’t free.

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I have to admit that, in light of the recent Supreme Court decisions, I will be celebrating Independence Day with a heavy heart. There are several reasons for this and most of them have to do with the fact that our freedoms and rights are being slowly and continually undermined.

One of the things that made our nation great is the balance of power: balance of power between the state and federal governments, and the balance of power between the three branches of federal government (Executive, Legislative, and Judicial). By their recent decisions, and completely undermining the various state laws, they have usurped power that was not theirs to take. They are not the only ones of course. The Executive branch (which includes the president) has done the same thing with its many “executive orders.” And even the Legislative Branch has done this by introducing, and sometimes passing, unjust and unreasonable laws.

Unfortunately, this undermining of our rights is not just limited to government. Many schools are exposing and indoctrinating our children without parental knowledge, and without their approval, such as this Virginia School district. In fact, anyone who disagrees with the liberal agenda is ridiculed and labeled as a hater, which in most cases is absolutely not true.

And I can tell you, with the recent Supreme Court decisions, religious freedom is on a precipice. There was a time when a person’s conscience was respected, not anymore. People, such as clergy and other Christians, will be persecuted and things will get ugly. It is sad, but true.

Now, I do not write all this to be a downer. My goal is to encourage, not discourage. I only share my thoughts in order to remind all of us that we need to remain vigilant, be aware of what is going on locally and in the world, and to remain steadfast in prayer.

Someone reminded me that God will not be mocked, and we must remember that no matter what happens, the victory has already been won in Christ. There will be suffering, there will be judgement, but in the end, all will be for God’s glory, and His Will will be done! So, we must take heart, and trust in the Lord. 🙂

So my prayer for you is that this Independence Day, and every day, you be filled with God’s mercy and grace, and strength in all things.

Blessings!

 

The Sacred Heart = Compassion

I saw this video on Facebook, and I knew I had to share it here. (hat tip to 3 Boys and a Dog for first posting it of FB.) It is not long, but it will probably make you cry! It is the perfect video for the Sacred Heart because Jesus pours out His heart, His love, for us, and this video is a beautiful Human example of love:

May your day be blessed, and my you be inspired by this touching video!

Merry Christmas Week

Christmas mangerNo goals or blogging this week as I spend time with family and celebrate the Blessed and Holy Birth of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus.

Wishing all of you a truly wonderful, peace-filled, blessed and Holy Christmas!

(Image in public domain)

A Word of Encouragement from Pope Francis

For Advent this year I am reading a daily devotional called Our Advent Journey with Christ in the Words of Pope Francis. The reflections are short and yet give much food for thought for the day.

Yesterday’s reflection, Tuesday of the Third week really spoke to me because many of us struggle  (or are struggling now) with various problems and difficulties. And sometimes, the Christmas season can magnify those difficulties. But as Pope Francis reminds us, Jesus is with always, even when we struggle:

“We know that with Him we are never alone, even at difficult moments, even when our life’s journey comes up against problems and obstacles that seem insurmountable-and there are so many of them! We accompany and follow Jesus, but above all we know that he accompanies us and carries us on his shoulders. This is our joy, this is the hope that we must bring to this world.”

No matter what happens to us, no matter what happens to you, know that Jesus loves you and is with you, carrying you through it all, just like in that well-known poem, “Footprints.” Jesus will guide you and support you in everything if you just lean on Him and let Him fill you with His peace and joy.

God bless!

See What Love the Father has Bestowed on Us

 

On Sunday, my cousin’s grandson, Adam, was baptized. It started with an adventure for some of us because there was a miscommunication, and somehow the wrong church was put on the invitation! But, once corrected, and we got to the correct church, the Mass was lovely, and the baptism was lovely, and of course the party afterwards was a lot of fun.

Gift of Baptism
During the Baptism, this scripture verse from 1 John 3:1 came to me:

“See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.”

The scripture reminds me that through the gift of Baptism we gain the privilege of becoming God’s children and a member of His Church. And that is exactly what it is – a gift. Baptism is done to us, not something that we earn or work for or do to ourselves. Through no merit of our own, God freely, and unconditionally, through Baptism, “bestows on us” His great love, wipes us clean from original (and in some cases, actual) sin, and initiates us as a member of the Church community. How awesome is that?! And the fact that we, as Catholics, are baptized as babies certainly emphasizes the gift aspect of the Sacrament for those who witness it. Doesn’t it?

Also, even more mind-boggling, through Baptism we become the children of God. We are God’s children! We belong to HIM through the gift of Baptism. The only thing that can separate ourselves from God is ourselves, when we reject Him through sin. Such a comforting, and convicting thought, that.

Sometime this week, try and spend a few minutes reflecting on 1 John 3:1, and the incredible significance of Baptism for yourself and your loved ones. I also encourage you to read what the Catholic Church teaches in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

P.S. I have a question for ya: Do you know when you were baptized? If so, do you do something special (either spiritually or practically) to mark the anniversary of your Baptism? Do share in the comments below…

As for me, I was baptized February 14th, St. Valentine’s Day. I always thought that was pretty cool because it made me feel like I was God’s special Valentine or something. Silly, I know, but true. 🙂 As for marking the day, I make an extra effort to get to daily Mass on that day, and spend a little extra time in prayer, if I can.

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Image of Baptismal Font from Public Domain

Weekly Meditation: Come to Me, all You Who…are Burdened

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“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

On Friday, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart which is another one of my favorite feasts of the Church.

This Solemnity reminds us that no matter what we go through, Jesus is with us, and in Him we can find refuge and peace. Jesus never promised us an easy life. Many of the saints suffered much, but they never turned away from the Lord. Instead, they clung to the Lord in all their fears and necessities.

Like them, we must remember that we follow the Crucified Lord, not the “follow me, and you will have all the worldly pleasures and things you want, Lord.” We must cling to Him in all circumstances, good or bad. He waits to comfort you and bless you, if only you come to Him.

No, you probably won’t “feel” anything, or experience anything extraordinary. And no, your circumstances probably won’t change instantly or miraculously. But in faith,  know that Jesus does help you carry your burden, no matter what that burden is. He can, and will give you the strength and peace to handle whatever comes your way. But, He can’t do those things if you don’t turn to him and trust him.

This week, find some time to sit quietly and reflect on these words of this scripture. Come to Jesus. Let Him speak to you, and fill you with His love

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If you find this meditation helpful, please share with your family and friends, especially on your favorite social media site such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or elsewhere. Thanks!

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Jesus image in Public Domain

 

Three Cheers for Lent!

Three Cheers for Lent!Ash Wednesday is this week and as you can tell from the title of this post, I’m excited about the arrival of Lent! For a lot of people, Lent is about “giving up” something, such as candy, or coffee or whatever. Some people consider the penances of Lent a drudgery. And that’s too bad. Lent isn’t about giving up something and then becoming frustrated with oneself for failing to live up to one’s promises. That’s what New Year’s Resolutions are for! Now, I’m not saying not to give up something for Lent. I am giving up something, but Lent is more than that.

Lent is about renewal!

New Year’s is a time when many people make resolutions to lose weight, do this, don’t do that. August/September is the beginning of a new school year and a time when kids (and adults) resolve to make “this year better than last year.” And technically, everyday is a chance for a restart. But Lent is unique. Lent is a time that is especially meant for a spiritual renewal, almost even more so than the Advent/Christmas Season. It is a time to recalibrate our souls and remind ourselves of what is important in life. It is a time to refocus and rekindle (or deepen) our relationship with Jesus, with the Blessed Trinity.

The purpose of the “mandates” of Lent: prayer, sacrifice and almsgiving is to help us go deeper into the truths of our faith and our relationship with Christ, NOT to give us yet another thing to do or not do for the next six weeks. So, I’d like to invite you to rethink your strategy for Lent this year. If you have been in the habit of giving up something for Lent and it hasn’t worked for ya, how about instead of giving up something, give yourself something. Here are four things you can give yourself:

1. Give yourself the gift of Confession. If you haven’t been to the Sacrament of reconciliation in a while, now would be a good time to go. The Church requires Catholic to go to Confession at least once a year for a reason. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a sacrament of healing and an opportunity to encounter Christ in a very special way.

2. Give yourself the gift of the Eucharist. If you aren’t in the habit of going to daily mass, now would be a great time to start – even if it just one or two days a week – or just on Saturdays. The readings for Lent are just as powerful during the week as they are on Sundays.

3. Give yourself the gift of prayer. The rosary is a particularly powerful prayer and it is a wonderful way to meditate on the mysteries of Our Lord’s Life, Death and Resurrection. It is even better if you can pray together as a family. Many Churches offer the Stations of the Cross each Friday which is a beautiful way to enter one’s self into Our Lord’s suffering. If you can’t do that, try to just spend five minutes or so reading the Bible and/or sitting quietly before the Lord.

4. Give yourself the gift of intention. Finally, above all, no matter what you do the Lent, let it be intentional and focused. Be fully present to your devotions, family or whatever it is you are doing/not doing for Lent. That alone will transform your Lenten experience!

Now, let’s support each other. Tell me, what are you doing for Lent this year? What are you going to do/not do in order to truly deepen your relationship with Jesus and renew your spirit this season? By putting it out there, it will help you stay accountable and give me the opportunity to pray for you!

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3 Take-Away Life Lessons from the Olympic Athletes

Olympic Life Lessons

(Since the winter Olympics have taken center stage, I have updated this post and republishing it. These are good lesson we could all use a refresher in, especially me. 🙂 )

The Sochi Olympics are here! Have you been watching? I’ve watched some: snow boarding, a little of the sking, and my favorite, figure skating.

I am always amazed at the level of talent and effort put in by the Olympic athletes, and all serious athletes, really. There’s a reason St. Paul often used the analogy of athletes for the spiritual life. They are a great example of what we need to succeed in the spiritual life and in life in general. Here’s three of them:

Lesson One: Consistency

Serious athletes, like those participating in the Olympics, practice rigorously, on an ongoing basis. They set up a schedule and follow through. If they are serious about getting a metal, they are going to practice almost everyday without fail – often several hours a day. They don’t flip-flop, procrastinate or take days off because they feel like it.

If we are going to be successful in our spiritual life, or business or whatever else, we must be consistent. And I suck at it…I’ll go a week where I’ll pray everyday and make it to daily mass and then I’ll have an “off” day where I’m “too busy” or for whatever reason I skip and then the next thing I know, I’ll realize that I haven’t said my rosary in 4 days. Being consistent is a definite battle for me.

How consistent are you?

Lesson Two: Perseverance

One of the things I love about watching the Olympics is the background stories of many of the athletes. So many of them have had difficulties and obstacles to overcome just to practice and succeed in their sports. Whether it’s financial difficulties, or injuries or opposition from family or friends, these athletes have gone against the odds and conquered.

If we are going to succeed, be it in our spiritual life or business, we, too, need to persevere. Times are hard. We are all struggling, some more than others, but we all have our crosses to bear. Starting or building a business isn’t always easy, but to succeed, you have to be persistent and work through the hard times. And don’t forget, God will give us the grace we need – if we ask!

How persistent are you?

Lesson Three: Focus

Most serious athletes focus all their attention and effort on one sport; and with good reason. By focusing on just one sport, the athlete can put all his or her time, resources, attention and physical abilities into being the best he or she can be. And it shows. When I am watching the Olympic athletes perform, it looks as if nothing exists except them and their sport. The athlete blocks out everything that can potentially get between them and achieving their goals.

For us to succeed in our spiritual life we need to focus – on GOD. Does that mean we sit and pray all day? Of course not. But like the athletes who think about their sport or talk about their sport even when they are doing other things, we can train ourselves to think about God and talk about God no matter what we are doing. We can train ourselves to be a living prayer, if we focus and practice.

For bloggers, or those building a business, a lot of times when reading or listening about business advice we are often told how important it is to have a niche. It took me a long time to understand why. Having a focus, or a niche, doesn’t hinder a person from being successful, but rather, helps a person succeed.

Are you focused?

Now it’s your turn. What life lessons have you garnered (or are garnering) from watching the Olympics? Do share in the comments.

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(Olympics Rings Image in Public Domain)