A tale of 4 vacuums

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We’ve had a rough go of it with vacuum cleaners lately. A shop vac and two indoor vacuums. They’ve all been around for years, though, so when I opened our newest indoor vacuum, I was optimistic. There was no way this thing would die on me! I put it together and it worked really well. Whew.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Before I knew it, though, the vacuum had caught the loose strand from the corner of the living room rug. In a matter of 3 seconds, the vacuum sucked up over 30 feet of thread from the rug and shut off.

Say what?

I was really tempted to just throw out the darn thing and give up on vacuuming altogether (melodramatic much, I know). But I took a deep breath, found a screwdriver, took apart the new vacuum, and cut out all of the rug pieces. It took longer than I would have liked, and I was really tempted to just wait until Logan was home so he could do it. But I kept with it and finally was able to turn on the vacuum. Much to my relief, it started working beautifully again.

How often does the same thing happen in our marriage? We think things are working well, then suddenly we hit a snag – a disagreement about an issue, a betrayal – and we don’t know what to do. Why fix yet another vacuum cleaner when this is already the 4th one in less than a month that has crapped out on us? (Yes, people, four. Talk about ridiculousness.)

But there is bound to be conflict in a marriage. We’re humans! And the only way to get past it is to resolve it, no matter how difficult it may be. We need to resist the temptation to just throw away the vacuum cleaner or sweep an issue under the rug. (Pun intended.)

Our marriage is thriving now because we’ve both taken honest looks at ourselves, realized what we each need to work on, and how we can support each other in doing so. And it’s still very much a work in progress.

Sometimes we’ve had to cut loose strings that were keeping us from connecting fully – just like I had to do to the vacuum to get it to work again. Sometimes the process has been painstakingly slow and brutal. We’ve had to be patient with ourselves and each other.

But it pays off. Fix the vacuum – er, address the problem in your marriage. Do the work you need to do to make your marriage thrive. It won’t always be easy, you’ll probably hit snags along the way (remember, the enemy wants your marriage to fail!), but God gives us the grace we need to grow closer to Him and to our spouse.

I know this is a lot easier said than done. If you’re needing a little help or guidance in how to communicate better with your spouse, I recommend taking a look at these resources:

  • The Temperament God Gave Your Spouse by Art and Laraine Bennett – our temperaments play a huge part in how we react or handle certain situations, and this book provides helpful communication techniques for each temperament
  • Praying for (and With) Your Spouse: The Way to Deeper Love by Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcak – prayer is a vital component of marriage and resolving conflict, and the Popcaks provide so much encouragement, inspiration, and helpful tips when it comes to praying both for and with your spouse
  • How to handle everyday conflict in your marriage at Aleteia – this short blog post provides some good tips/thoughts
  • The Bible – I’m always amazed at how many times I’m reading Scripture and come across the perfect verse that is an answer to prayer. There is so much wisdom in the Bible – don’t forget to read it often!

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” – Proverbs 3:5-6 (NRSV)

 

9 years of marriage

We’re celebrating 9 years of marriage today! It’s been a crazy but beautiful ride.

The longer we’re married, the more I realize that there is no way to adequately prepare for marriage. You just have to learn as you live it!

I read a lot. So before we were married, I read all kinds of books on marriage and sex and love. I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. Honestly, I did. I knew marriage would have its ups and downs but I really thought we would be fine! (And we are fine, but whew, it took awhile!)

We even did plenty of marriage prep stuff – met with our priest a few times, took the FOCCUS inventory, and met with a mentor couple several times. Our priest had zero concerns, our inventory results showed zero concerns, and our lovely mentor couple actually told us that we would be teaching marriage prep one day.

It’s all so funny now, really. Looking back, it really did seem like we knew what we were getting into. But man, life really hit us – communication problems, pregnancy loss, infertility, sex problems, high-risk pregnancy, finances, difficult family relationships, you name it. How the heck were we supposed to be prepared for all of THAT?

I was recently thinking about the vows we said at our wedding and couldn’t help but laugh, because we could have added a few things to it.

I, Jen, take you, Logan, to be my husband. I promise to be faithful to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love you and to honor you all the days of my life.

I promise to be faithful to you even though a vocation to the religious life looks pretty appealing sometimes.

To love you and honor you when our bank account is pitifully low because everything in our house is breaking.

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I, Logan, take you, Jen, to be my wife. I promise to be faithful to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love you and to honor you all the days of my life.

I promise to be faithful to you even when we can’t have sex during your 9-month pregnancy because of your stupid cervix.

To love you and to honor you even when one of our kids is puking at midnight.

The ironic thing, though, is that I think Logan and I love each other more because of everything we’ve gone through.

Those years of desperately wanting a baby made me appreciate how great of a dad Logan is now.

Those long pregnancies of abstinence showed me that Logan loves me enough to wait for me. (And yes, guys, totally possible to abstain! Hard, definitely, but possible.)

Those nights of cleaning up puke together really cemented in my mind the fact that Logan and I make a pretty awesome team.

So yeah, marriage hasn’t been what we expected it to be. It’s been a heck of a lot harder, but now we know that anything worth doing is going to be hard. And we’ve been able to look back on our 9 years of marriage thus far and see the fruit from all of those trials.

God can use anything, redeem anything, and He wants to do incredible things in your marriage.

“There is not a moment in which God does not present Himself under the cover of some pain to be endured, of some consolation to be enjoyed, or of some duty to be performed. All that takes place within us, around us, or through us, contains and conceals His divine action.” -Rev. Jean-Pierre de Caussade

Unexpected loss

Logan and I were ready to have a baby as soon as we were married. But since my fertility was, well, not normal, it seemed like we would have problems getting pregnant.

To our surprise, we conceived only two months after our wedding. We were thrilled! We were married in June, found out we were pregnant in August, and I started a new job in September that I loved. Life was good. We weren’t making a lot of money, but we were so, so happy.

Even though I struggled a lot with morning sickness (that lasted all day), I was so thankful for the life inside of me. Logan was also so adorable when it came to me and my pregnant self – he looked at me with so much love. He kept telling me how he appreciated me carrying our child, he would kiss my belly after he kissed me on the lips, and he would tell my belly “I love you” after he told me. Despite his excitement, though, Logan couldn’t help worrying about something happening to our baby.

But according to my doctor, the pregnancy was going along swimmingly. A couple weeks into the second trimester, I finally started feeling better. When I was 19 weeks pregnant, we found out our baby was a boy! We decided to name him Levi Anthony and were even more excited to meet him a few months later. Christmas came and it was the best holiday we had celebrated as a couple thus far, and we couldn’t wait until the following Christmas when we would have a baby in our arms.

Just four days after Christmas, though, we ended up in the hospital. After several terrible hours of cramping, contractions, and bleeding, I delivered our son. He didn’t have a heartbeat. There are no words to explain the pain we felt that day and the months (and years) that followed.

At the time, Logan and I hadn’t even been married for seven months yet. We knew marriage would have its ups and downs, but still, we were completely blindsided by the loss of our son. It didn’t help that people kept telling us the statistics for divorce for couples who lost a child. Hadn’t we lost enough already? Was our marriage really doomed too?

Because Logan and I have very different personalities – as well as the fact that I was the one who carried Levi in my womb and Logan did not – we grieved very differently. I cried a lot and felt like I would never be happy again. Logan seemed to be handling it much better than me, so I didn’t tell him everything that was going on inside me.

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Holding our precious baby. It still kills me to look at this picture because Logan obviously did a better job at smiling than me…but I’m very thankful to have this. Our first family picture ❤️

I did journal about all of my struggles, though. Because I couldn’t bring myself to actually say those things out loud, Logan ended up just reading what I wrote and we talked after that.

That’s when I really started to see the beauty of the Sacrament of Marriage – Logan made sure I knew that I was not going through this loss alone. I felt like I was falling further and further away from God, so Logan made it his goal to not let that happen. After all, our main goal of marriage is to get each other to Heaven. Sometimes it feels so impossible, but maybe that’s part of why we go through certain trials – to remind us to help each other.

It was two weeks after we lost Levi that we finally talked about everything that happened. Most trials can cause a couple to grow further apart or closer together, and I can totally see how the former happens. It almost happened to us.

But thankfully we were given the grace to share our pain with each other. Logan told me that day that he wished he could have gone through everything with me at the hospital (since poor guy felt so helpless just watching me in pain all night, and they actually ended up not letting him in the delivery room), but I told him, “I wouldn’t have wanted you to.” Because really, my hospital experience is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone – especially not my husband.

Even though losing our son was harder than I ever would have imagined, I couldn’t help but feel so blessed to have Logan as my other half. I couldn’t imagine going through that tragic time without him. It was only after pouring my heart out to him – and realized he wasn’t going anywhere – that I finally felt I could start on the path towards healing.

The honeymoon is over

Two days after our wedding, Logan and I were in Florida to spend the rest of the week there for our honeymoon. The resort we were staying at had an extra key, and there were instructions to put it in a key pad outside – just in case we needed it. It was a smart move on the owner’s part, since it would lessen the likelihood of him needing to drive over and let people in if they got locked out.

I reminded Logan to put the spare key outside as instructed, and since he tends to blow things off, he ignored me, acting like we wouldn’t need an extra key.

Later that day, we walked outside to open a bottle of champagne. It was our first time opening a bottle and we wanted to play it safe. Logan started to close the door, but I told him not to close it all the way (you know, in case it locked somehow). But like I said before, Logan blew it off and let the door close all the way.

It didn’t take him long to realize we were locked out since he had left his key on the kitchen table – along with the spare key, which should have been in the key pad outside.

To say I was upset with Logan was a major understatement. He should have listened to me! He should have just put the dang key in the pad!

Looking back, I’m not sure why I didn’t just put the spare key in the key pad myself, but it was still really annoying how Logan ignored me. Twice, at that. On our second full day or marriage! I hated that we needed to call the owner to come let us back into our resort, when the spare key would have done it for us.

I took a walk to refrain from saying mean things, and I sat down on some steps (far away from Logan) for a little while. Suddenly I was bombarded by all of these bad thoughts – I doubted our marriage, I doubted my call to the married life, and I doubted whether or not we were cut out for a life together. The devil was taking the perfect opportunity to throw so many evil thoughts in my head. It was crazy.

Thankfully, I realized what was happening, so I prayed for the grace to be a good wife and to keep God at the center of our life together. I ended with the prayer to St. Michael, and God really did help me overcome those evil thoughts.

I wish I had known back then that that was just the first of many, many times that I would question our marriage and my vocation. Sure, I knew marriage was going to have its hard moments, but I felt completely blindsided at just how hard it was at times.

For some reason, people don’t warn newlyweds that there might come a time where you regret getting married. That sometimes you will look at your beloved spouse and wonder what the heck happened to him since you said those blissful vows. I certainly don’t blame people for avoiding all of that when giving their well wishes and congratulations to the blushing bride and groom. Maybe it’s because if people really knew how hard it was, nobody would get married.

The divorce statistics say a lot though – half of all marriages end. Before I got married, I didn’t understand. How could you vow to love someone for better or for worse, in sickness and health, and then decide otherwise later on? How could you just suddenly change your mind one day?

It took me less than two weeks into marriage to understand that sharing every facet of your life with another human being is much harder than it seems.

A mere nine days after our wedding, once the honeymoon was over, and we were settling into our new life as a married couple, I wrote these words in my journal:

I think Logan and I are in for some rough times. It’s just a feeling (and I could be wrong), but I know we’ll make it through because we’re determined to keep God in the center of our marriage.

Boy, if I only knew what was to come.

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The rest of our honeymoon was a blast, thankfully!

When God says Wait

In the summer of 2010, Logan and I had been married for about a year. But in that year, we had already experienced so much, including losing our first son…and we were having problems getting pregnant again. Let’s just say that it was a rough time for us, especially me, as I had no idea what God was doing in my life and I struggled with waiting for him to do something about it. Our baby’s due date had come and gone, our attempts to buy a house weren’t working, and I was feeling pretty empty. I just really wanted to be a mom.

One particular weekend that summer, I was visiting my parents, and my aunt and her family were there too (as well as my brother and his family). Logan wasn’t able to come because of work, so I was the lucky one stuck sleeping on the couch. After everyone else went to bed (and I stayed put because…couch), my aunt hung around for a minute just looking at me. I have to admit I was not a very fun person that day for several reasons. So when my aunt started talking, I knew it was the Holy Spirit talking through her. The thing that sticks out the most is when she said this: “I know God has planned for you an abundant life…but not today.”

When there is something that I want so desperately and I’m praying so fervently for it, I seem to think that God answers either “yes” or “no.” But as history has shown, sometimes God says, “Wait.” And it is through those times of waiting that God reveals an even bigger plan.

There have been so many waiting periods in our marriage – waiting to get pregnant, waiting for our babies to be born after long and difficult pregnancies, waiting for the perfect house. It was truly a lesson in trust and patience, but now I can look back and see how fruitful those times of waiting were (although very hard at times!).

There are other situations we’re still in that waiting period – for Logan to get that dream job, or just a better job, is just one example – and it’s hard to see why God is making us wait so long. It’s even harder to think that we might be waiting forever.

We have several friends who have been unemployed for much longer than expected and other friends who have been unable to conceive after many years. Still others are waiting for their spouses to convert or some are waiting for a chronic medical issue to be solved.

Gosh, there is just so much waiting.

The beauty of marriage, though, is that you have someone to wait with, and I know from experience that you can choose to let those waiting periods tear you apart – or bring you closer together. Use the waiting to cling to each other and strengthen your marriage. I know for us, those have been the best times to work on our communication skills.

If there is anything I have learned from these countless times of waiting, it is this: God has a plan that is above and beyond anything we could have ever imagined. It doesn’t always make sense, and it isn’t always what we would choose for ourselves. And heck, sometimes we won’t even fully know the depth of God’s plan until we see Him in heaven. That’s what faith is about, though…trusting that God knows best, no matter the circumstances. No matter how long we wait for an answer.

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7 ways to bring Mary into your marriage

During our wedding ceremony, we presented flowers to the Blessed Mother, entrusting our marriage to her.

praying for your spouse

Honestly, I don’t think we fully grasped the importance of that at the time. But as years have gone by, we’ve realized more and more just how vital our Mother is to our marriage.

She is the ultimate example of what it means to say “yes” to God’s will and to trust Him in everything. Her fiat – her “yes” – led to the salvation of the whole world. Not only did she have the perfect marriage, she was the perfect mother. As a woman, I look to Mary as a guide as I strive to become a better wife and mother.

(But a man could totally consider Mary as an example too! She was so trusting and self-sacrificial, two qualities essential in a marriage. The most awesome priests we know are the ones with a devotion to the Blessed Mother.)

Plus, the devil is terrified of Mary – have you noticed that many statues of Mary have her crushing the serpent? She is the WOMAN. Her prayers are so powerful, as she can literally whisper into the ear of Jesus. And he listens to her, just like he did from the very beginning of his ministry at the wedding at Cana.

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How can you bring Mary into your marriage? Here are some ideas:

  1. Place a statue of Mary in your home, specifically in your bedroom.
  2. Pray the Rosary together.
  3. Have images of Mary hanging on your walls, especially in your bedroom. (We also have one of Mary and baby Jesus right outside our boys’ room, which I love.)
  4. Create a Marian garden in your yard. (We just did this! See our video at the end of the post!)
  5. Celebrate Marian feast days. (One of our faves is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe!)
  6. Read 33 Days to Morning Glory together.
  7. If your church has a place for flowers in front of a statue of the Blessed Mother, present those to her together and pray a Hail Mary for your marriage. (Our church has a little grotto which is perfect for this!)

May is the month of Mary, so this is the perfect time to think about how you can Mary into your marriage! Do you have any other ideas to add to the list?

7 ways to pray with your spouse

Are you tired of me talking about this yet? I hope not, because it’s so important!

7 ways to pray with your spouse (1)

Even though Logan and I pray together every night before bed (when we’re both home, at least, and going to bed at the same time, which is most nights), we’ve realized the importance of changing up our prayer routine a bit. So I thought I’d share some ways you can pray together with your spouse.

  1. Spontaneous prayer. This is what Logan and I mostly do every night. Logan leads and starts with thanksgiving and adoration, then intentions. I add intentions, and we close by asking our family litany of saints for prayers too.
  2. Rosary. We usually pray the Rosary individually – Logan during his work commute and me at home – but during long car rides we pray together. And we recently started praying a rosary together on Logan’s off days. (I completely admire couples who pray the Rosary together everyday!)
  3. Liturgy of the Hours. We’re not always up at the same time to do Morning Prayer, and Evening Prayer is hard to fit in with homework, dinner, and bedtime. But we have prayed Night Prayer together, which is my favorite. It’s the perfect way to end the day – and it’s even better when you pray it with your spouse! And maybe one day our schedule will allow to either do Morning or Evening Prayer together…
  4. Devotional Book. We just finished Forever and highly recommend it! Each chapter takes about 5 minutes – reflection, challenge, and a prayer. This is a great way to ease into praying together, I think.
  5. Mass. The entire Mass is a prayer! It’s hard to remember sometimes, especially if you have little kids and can’t focus the entire time. But going to Mass together is a lovely way to pray together.
  6. Lecto Divina. This is the one thing we need to start doing. We’ve been reading the Mass readings together with our handy dandy Every Sacred Sunday journal and talking about what spoke to us, but we haven’t really delved into praying with it together yet. But, baby steps!
  7. Retreat. This is one of those things that you won’t realize how important/helpful/fruitful it is until you actually do it. Getting away to a prayerful setting, embracing the Sacraments, and being able to focus on God and your spouse for an entire day or two is one of the best things ever. We’ve been on two and are going on another one soon! Every time has been such a source of strength and renewal in our marriage. Highly, highly recommend it.

Now you share! What’s your favorite way to pray with your spouse? What has helped you stay consistent with it?

Linking up with Kelly for 7QT!

And here’s our video on praying together if you missed it:

How to make date night actually happen

If you’re one of those couples who faithfully goes on a date every month (or week!), just skim right past this. 😉

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Date night. We all know we should do it but…making it happen? Completely different thing. I have some thoughts if you struggle with it!

1. Figure out what your main obstacle is to making it happen.

Is it your budget? Your baby who won’t take a bottle? Lack of a babysitter? You’re just too tired? (That last one is a lame excuse, by the way…)

Once you’ve pinpointed the obstacle(s), brainstorm a solution. Together!

For us, it’s a few factors. We have limited to no budget (depending on the month, because we have variable income), so we mostly rely on gifts cards and the generosity of loved ones to babysit.

When we have a tiny baby who is hard to leave, we’ve relied on in-home date nights until the stars aligned to make an out-of-the-home date night happen. (And then we took the baby with us.)

I personally can’t stand the planning part of a date – figuring out where to go, who’s going to babysit, etc. Logan is constantly begging to go on a date, and I inwardly groan, because while I would like to go too, I hate being the one in charge of planning. So I finally thought to tell Logan I’d be more than happy to go on a date whenever if he took the initiative to plan – mainly booking a babysitter. My favorite dates have been the ones where he did all of the planning.

Because of our schedule currently, evening dates don’t usually work. So we realized that going on a date in the middle of the day is easier and much less stressful.

You might have to get creative when it comes to a solution to your specific obstacle, but for most people, there is one!

2. It doesn’t have to be extravagant to be considered a date.

Seriously, though. Of course it’s nice to get dressed up really nice, eat at a fancy restaurant, and go dance the night away in some fancy club.

If you want to be consistent about going on dates, though, you probably should keep it simple for the most part. Go to a quiet coffee shop and sip some lattes, browse a thrift store (and pick something out for each other if the budget allows!), or heck, go for a walk or ride bikes. The point of a date is to have dedicated time for just you and your spouse. No fireworks needed.

3. Keep both of your personalities in mind.

Logan and I are complete opposites when it comes to temperament and love languages. So that means we have different ideas of what we want our dates to look like….which means our dates usually consist of quiet down time for my sake (i.e. dinner) and something exciting for Logan’s sake (i.e. picking out each other’s outfits at Goodwill). Yes, you might have to compromise, but I’ve actually come to appreciate my spouse’s wild and crazy ideas. Maybe you will too!

4. Don’t be discouraged. It is only a season.

We’ve been through seasons where going on a date felt close to impossible – one of the kids (or us) was sick for two months straight, our baby did not do well in the evening, there was literally no money to do anything, etc. But don’t lose hope! This phase is temporary. Just make sure you jump on an opportunity to go on a date as soon as it comes. It will be worth it!

So, what do you think? What helps you make date night happen?

In case you missed it, we vlogged our last date! We also share 3 things we try to do every time we go on a date:

A month for your marriage {bringing it together}

In case you missed it, I hosted a weekly marriage challenge this month! Read the previous posts: week 1week 2,  week 3, and week 4.

Copy of Habits we do every day (2)

How I did on Week 4, praying for your spouse

Well, I did pray for Logan every day! I pray a daily rosary, so I also made sure a couple of those were solely for his intentions. This challenge really did help me remember to pray for him more. There was one day I slacked off a little and honestly, on the days that I was on top of it, I noticed that he was a better husband and father – more loving, more patient, etc.

There was one specific intention I was praying for a lot, and halfway through the week, an opportunity came up that might be answer to that prayer! (Prayers appreciated for that, please and thank you.) Prayer is pretty powerful!

How about you? Did you pray for your spouse every day? What helped you?

Bringing it together

I honestly thought at the beginning of this month that these challenges wouldn’t really make a difference, because we’re doing pretty well right now and are pretty much doing all of these things anyway (well, we’ve been slacking on date night, but part of that has been because of sick kids).

But every single week, I was actually very grateful for each specific challenge, because it is SO easy to slack off. Yes, we pray together, and yes, we’re vulnerable with each other, and yes, I pray for Logan. We’re not perfect at it though…not even close. We had some really bad days this month and it was nice to have some accountability with these challenges.

My biggest takeaway is that even when you think you’re doing fine, you could always be doing better.

Your thoughts

What did you think about the challenges? Were they helpful? Would you be interested in doing A Month for Your Marriage again (with different challenges, of course)? What would you change? Would you be interested in getting the challenges via email? I’d love to hear from you!

I hope everyone has a blessed Triduum and a very happy Easter!

A month for your marriage {week 4 – praying for your spouse}

In case you missed it, I’m hosting a weekly marriage challenge! Read the previous posts: week 1, week 2, and week 3.

Copy of Habits we do every day (2)

How we did on week 3’s challenge, being vulnerable

For the few days, I honestly felt like there was nothing I needed to share with Logan. We’re pretty open with each other now, and we text each other throughout the day most days. Buuuuut then I started feeling some crazy thoughts about some discernment things. And I was really tempted to just not tell Logan because I knew he would be like NOPE, YOU CRAZY. Then I remembered my challenge and thought, well, this is my time to be vulnerable! So I brought it up and he basically had the reaction I was expecting…but we still talked about it and it was good.

How about you? Did you have a meaningful talk with your spouse? (You don’t have to tell me what it was about!) Do you think it brought you closer together?

Pray for your spouse

Logan and I have always prayed together, but it took me a few years to realize I was sorely lacking in how often I prayed specifically for Logan. During our most difficult pregnancy, in 2014, Logan was really struggling with the stress of everything, so I started to pray for him more. I also asked for the intercession of St. Joseph, and I was so surprised (and grateful) to see fruits of my prayers.

It’s easy to forget that we’re supposed to get each other to heaven, and a lot of times I’m too focused on what to do or say to Logan in order to help him. But prayer is the most productive thing I can do! Chances are, you are the one of the few (if not only one) who knows the deepest desires of your spouse’s heart. You know what special intentions they could use prayers for – and if you don’t know, ask! (Remember to be vulnerable!)

This week’s challenge

Commit yourself to praying for your spouse every single day this week. Choose a special intention, maybe something he/she is struggling with, and ask God to give your spouse special graces regarding that intention. Or better yet – ask your spouse how you can pray for him/her in a special way this week!

Ideas:

  • pray a daily Rosary for your spouse
  • attend a daily Mass and offer that for your spouse
  • ask a specific saint (your spouse’s patron, if she/he has one) for their prayers as well

I’ll be back next week (Holy Thursday!!) with a post to wrap everything up. Thanks for following along!