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My favorite marriage books I read in 2018

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In case you didn’t know, I’m an avid reader. And I try really hard to read books in different genres! So while I’ve read over 40 books in 2018, a good portion of those were marriage books. (We could say 2018 was the year I read too many marriage books…)

In no particular order, I give you my favorites:

 

Praying for (and With) Your Spouse: The Way to Deeper Love by Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcak

Logan and I have been meaning to do a video about this book since we’ve read it together over the summer. Even though we’ve been praying together since before we were married, we still gained a lot of insights from this and it’ll probably be a book we refer to again from time to time. (There was a chapter on praying through difficult times, a chapter on praying through decisions, etc.) This would be especially helpful for couples who haven’t prayed together before or haven’t been consistent about it.

 

By Love Refined: Letters to a Young Bride by Alice von Hildebrand

I don’t know why I had not read this before now! It came highly recommended, and now I can’t recommend it enough. Every woman should read this, preferably in the first year or two of marriage! It’s one of those easy reads that is good to pick up every now and then for a refresher.

 

Forever: A Catholic Devotional for Your Marriage by Jackie Francois Angel and Bobby Angel

Logan and I read this together during Lent because it’s a 6-week devotional. Most days only took 5 minutes, which we usually did at night before bed. It focuses on Theology of the Body and we had some great takeaways….one being inspired to hang a crucifix above our bed. Because, sacrificial love. Highly recommend this one to married couples! (And you don’t need to be Catholic to read it!)

 

The First Society: The Sacrament of Matrimony and the Restoration of the Social Order by Scott Hahn

This book really inspired me (even more) to focus on the sacramentality of marriage and the importance of all sacraments as a part of our daily lives. I really had several epiphanies reading this, like God creating the marriage of Adam and Eve as the first relationship on earth because marriage is the foundation of society. Our society is failing because marriage is failing! I could go on and on but you should just read it, even if you’re not married.

 

The Temperament God Gave Your Spouse by Art and Laraine Bennett

Learning about temperaments has been such a game-changer for our marriage! I’ve read the original temperament book and the one about children and wondered if I needed to read this one too, but I ended up really liking the specific examples given for married couples.

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So there you have it! I challenge you to pick one marriage book to read in 2019, because a little does go a long way. 🙂

And in case you’re curious, these are the marriage books I plan on reading in 2019:

Did you read any marriage books this past year? Which one was your favorite?

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Grieving Together

This is not a sponsored post. We did receive a free copy of the book but all opinions are our own!

There have been many surprises in our last 9+ years of marriage, but the biggest was losing our first baby boy. We didn’t see it coming, and we didn’t know if we would get through it.

I read books on pregnancy loss during the weeks and months to follow, but none of them talked about how it would affect our relationship with God and with each other. There were no Catholic resources on pregnancy loss back then, much less resources about grieving together as a married couple.

Thankfully, times have changed and resources are more available. I was thrilled to learn that Laura Kelly Fanucci (blogger at Mothering Spirit) was coming out with a book co-written with her husband. It’s called Grieving Together: A Couple’s Journey through Miscarriage. This is the book we’ve been missing! This is the book that we needed almost 9 years ago.

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Even though the focus is miscarriage, any couple experiencing any other loss (stillbirth, infant loss) will benefit from this book. They really do cover everything, including:

  • The physical experience of miscarriage
  • What the Catholic Church says about miscarried babies
  • How we can remember our babies
  • How we each grieve as mother and father
  • Prayers and quotes from the saints

Plus so much more. I’d recommend anyone to read this book, whether you’ve experienced a loss or not. There are personal stories woven throughout that give the reader so many different perspectives.

One of my favorite chapters is the one titled “Your Marriage after Miscarriage.” It didn’t hit us until years later how our loss affected our marriage. We got married in June, found out we were pregnant in August, and lost our baby in December. Those first few months of marriage happened so fast! We didn’t know what hit us, and we definitely didn’t know how to cope.

But Laura and Franco address how we each grieve as mother and father and how we grieve as a couple. It really would have been so helpful to have those insights when we were in the thick of it.

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Even though it’s been almost 9 years, and we have three more boys with us now, sometimes I feel a little silly that I can still get emotional about our loss. You would think we wouldn’t still need a resource about pregnancy loss. But grief is unpredictable.

It was only this past May that Logan and I both ended up crying over our sweet baby boy while on a marriage retreat. Grief can hit you years later! We often think about what our family would look like with another boy added to the mix.

We also think more about our baby, Levi, during the fall because that’s when I carried him. I still remember the ultrasound dates, the first time I felt him kick, and the day we found out he was a boy. The closer it gets to December 29, the more we think about the baby who really did change everything for us.

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So whether you just miscarried or your loss was several years ago, read this book! Gift it to a couple in need. It makes a valuable resource for any couple, church parish, or ministry. It’s available at Our Sunday Visitor, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

Free resources available include:

For anyone who has experienced pregnancy loss, know that we are praying for you!

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Advent & Marriage: Ways to keep Advent sacred together

When we really think about it, Advent and marriage have so many connections.

In marriage, our goal is to get each other to heaven. Plus our relationship with our spouse is supposed to be a foretaste of heaven!

In Advent, we’re preparing not only for the birth of Jesus, we’re preparing for when he comes again. It’s a reminder that we need to be ready! We want to be with him in heaven.

So it makes sense that we should want to keep Advent sacred as a married couple. Here are ways you can do that:

1. Commit to a spiritual practice together.

  • Been wanting to start praying a daily Rosary as a couple? Advent is a great time to start.
  • Attend an extra Mass together during the week.
  • Pray an hour from the Liturgy of the Hours each day.

2. Read a book together.

  • Devotionals are big during Advent, and I helped write an Advent devotional for Catholic couples! Read more details here.
  • A book of the Bible counts as a book! Reading through one of the Gospels together leading up to Christmas is a simple but beautiful way to connect in a faithful way.

3. Limit screen time.

  • Normally watch Netflix every night together? Try to limit it to once or twice a week.
  • Put your phones aside when you’re together for a designated time each day.

Doing both of those will give you plenty of time to do any of the previous suggestions!


4. Don’t feel like you have to attend every party.

Seriously. It’s okay to politely decline an invitation! Especially if you’re already feeling overwhelmed. December is a crazy time, and if saying yes to every single event will leave you frazzled and forgetful of what Advent is all about…just say no. Keep each other accountable to this!


5. Go to confession.

We try to go every month, and that’s especially important during Advent and Lent! Make this a priority. Receiving this sacrament regularly has literally changed our marriage! (And if things start spiraling, it’s usually because one of us hasn’t been recently.)


6. Decide on which traditions to do this year, and shelf the rest.

Really, it’s okay. Last year, Logan suggested we not take out our Jesse Tree (after struggling with it the previous two years), so I realized that he was right. Not every tradition will be right for your family every year – especially if you’re in a difficult phase with pregnancy, a baby, illness, or any other number of scenarios. Do what what works best for your family this year. But make sure you decide on that together!

The important thing is that you keep Advent in Advent. Let’s keep Jesus at the center of this season. Christmas will come, and then you can celebrate!

What else would you add to list?

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Ways to enrich relationships this Advent

This post contains affiliate links. If a sale is made through an affiliate link, we receive a commission. Read our privacy policy for more info.

Did you want to buy our marriage challenge cards and never got around to it? Are you looking for ways to celebrate Advent? Ways to enrich your relationships with God, your husband, and your kids?

If your answer to those questions is yes, then you will love the Catholic Mom Bundle! (Okay, any men reading? This would make a great surprise gift for your wife…)

I’ve already had a sneak preview, so I’m trying to figure out my favorite part. Is it the…

  • Grace Grows in the Trenches: 5 Minute Meditations for the Weary Catholic Mom (Plus an Advent Bonus Bundle), $24
  • The Question Jar: Cultivating Connections in Catholic Families, $5
  • An At Home Nativity Play, $6 (things like this are REALLY fun with Logan, ha…and our boys will love it)

I don’t know if I can pick a favorite, but I am also really excited about the Mass Journal for Moms that comes as a bonus with Grace Grows in the Trenches. Logan and I have been using a Mass journal together and I need something to replace it once Advent and the new liturgical year starts.

Normally, Grace Grows in the Trenches (plus the Advent bundle) sells for $24, but with the Catholic Mom Bundle (on sale just this week!), you can get a lot more products too….for just $1 more.

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For $25, you can a total of 20 products (valued at $246). Some of the resources include printables, workbooks, eBooks, and email courses. We have products for spiritual growth, marriage, mom’s faith, and family life.

As a contributor, I had early access to the bundle, and I found a bunch of other things I’m excited about too!

Just to name a few:

  • Wall Calendar for Everyday Catholics, $15 (our 6-year old loves this, seriously…it has all the feast days for him to keep track of)
  • 12 Days of Mercy, $48
  • A Month for Your Marriage challenge cards (I mean, our product has to be one of my faves, right?)

Seriously, there are so many great products, all of which can enrich all of the relationships in your life. And although several would be great for Advent, many can be used whenever! Including our marriage challenge cards. (Although they would be perfect to do during the month of December!)

I know our kids are so excited about a couple of the products already! Check out the full list in the Catholic Mom Bundle (our affiliate link!) —–> here!

 But don’t wait too long. It’s only on sale until Friday!

Two marriage lessons from the Wedding at Cana

This post contains an affiliate link.  If a sale is made through an affiliate link, we may be compensated. See our privacy policy for more information.

Logan and I recently had the opportunity to attend a marriage enrichment event hosted by a local church parish (thanks to the generosity of friends!). There was a delicious 5-course meal, a different wine served with each course, and a different speaker at the end of each course. Most of the speakers were married couples, but the parish priest spoke at the end of the main entree. The topic he talked about? The Wedding at Cana. (I did mention this briefly on Instagram).

The Gospel reading at our wedding was the Wedding at Cana, and I pray the Rosary every day, so I’m not stranger to the story. In fact, it’s one of my favorite mysteries. How awesome is it that Jesus (because of Mary) chose to perform his first miracle at a wedding? What does that say about the importance of marriage?

Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about what the priest said in his brief talk. He made two points:

1. Do the work so God can do the miracle.

The servers had the difficult task of filling those six stone water jars (each twenty to thirty gallons!) with water. Can you imagine how long that took? How much work that was? But they did the work so Jesus could turn the water into wine. They were able to see the miracle because of the effort they put forth.

The same goes in marriage! I know that Logan and I did not see God working in big ways until we did the work necessary. God wants to do great things…but he also wants us to do our part. Think about how many miracles in the Bible happened because of the effort put forth by that person!

The woman with a hemorrhage knew she just needed to touch Jesus’s cloak, the Syropheoenician woman insisted on Jesus driving the demon out of her daughter, the leper prostrated himself before Jesus because he knew that Jesus could make him clean. The list goes on and on.

2. God saves the best wine for last.

On our wedding day, we think that’s the best it’s going to get. We’re so happy and we love each other more than ever! How could it get any better? But it does. We’re only 9 years in, and we’ve seen the growth in our relationship through all of the highs and lows. Our marriage is definitely better than it was on our wedding day! Can you imagine what it will be like in another thirty years? Just like Jesus saved the best wine for last at the Wedding at Cana, he saves the best wine for last in our marriage.

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All of that to say, those two points go hand-in-hand. Just like we have to do the work so God can do the miracle, we won’t get to taste that best wine by staying stagnant. Anyone who’s been married knows that it’s not easy! It takes constant effort. And just when you think you and your spouse are doing well, something happens to make you realize that there’s still work to be done. We have to constantly fill each other up!

It’s important to remember, though, that we can’t do it without God’s help. We have to seek God first and foremost. He will give us the grace we need to live our married vocation. Just take it from Fulton J. Sheen in his book, Three to Get Married:

“Two glasses that are empty cannot fill up one another. There must be a fountain of water outside the glasses, in order that they may have communion with one another. It takes three to make love.”

So make sure you’re inviting God into your marriage. Pray together, have those difficult conversations together, share everything with each other, and support each other. Keep doing the work by filling each other’s glasses, trusting that in time, God will provide that best wine.

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Waiting Together – An Advent Devotional for Couples

There are so many Advent devotionals out there! And it’s great, really. Advent is the perfect time to spend dedicated time each day praying and meditating on Scripture.

But a couple of blogging friends and I realized there’s not much out there specifically for Catholic married couples. So we decided to write a devotional together!

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Do you want a simple way for your and your spouse to prepare for Christmas together? Waiting Together is an Advent devotional specifically for Catholic couples! Each day in Advent, we give you the Gospel reading for the day, a reflection, questions to discuss together, and a prayer. That’s it! It will take you less than 10 minutes each day. (Most days will probably only take 5 minutes. Easy peasy, right?)

There are a few challenges scattered throughout, and all are simple things that you and your spouse can do together to help keep the Advent season sacred.

We centered the devotional around marriage (obviously) and each week has a different theme. For example, I wrote the first week of the devotional, which is all about hope. I share experiences and insights from my own marriage and tie them into Advent.

A brief overview:

  • Week 1, Hope – written by myself, Jen, of Surprised By Marriage
  • Week 2, Faith – written by Kristi Denoy of Hail Marry
  • Week 3, Joy – written by Hilary Thompson of Messy Buns and Latin Chant
  • Week 4, Peace – written by Rachel Washington of Hail Marry

You can print it out yourself or read it on any device. (I’m a big fan of emailing PDFs to my Kindle – here are instructions on how to do that.)

We are so passionate about encouraging couples to pray together and foster a spiritual life together, so we’re very excited about this project! We hope it blesses you and your marriage this Advent. Click below to purchase. (Note: it’s a digital download!)

 

 

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Gratitude in marriage

When we had a toddler and a baby, we went through a major rough patch – it was hard to see how many blessings God had given us because we were both so focused on the negative things in life. I was overwhelmed staying at home with two littles all day, Logan was frustrated with his job, we were both frustrated with our financial situation, and well, let’s face it…our marriage was struggling big time. All I could focus on was how Logan wouldn’t help me when I was clearly overwhelmed (and tired…oh so tired) and all Logan could focus on was my lack of encouragement and my crazy talk. We were both really disillusioned.

Honestly, not much has changed since then – we’ve added another kid to the mix, but I’m still overwhelmed (most days), Logan is still frustrated with his job (most days), and we’re both frustrated with our financial situation (most days).

But our marriage? It’s so much better. And I think a big part of that is because we’ve started “counting our blessings” together on a regular basis, so to speak. (I know that sounds totally cliche, but it really, really helps.)

The crazy thing is that in many ways, life is harder now than it was back then. But thankfully God has given us the grace and tools to work through it. If there was one thing I could tell myself a few years ago when I was so focused on all the negative things in my marriage, it would be this: write down (or think about) at least one thing you’re grateful for every single day.

We may not have the ideal situation regarding Logan’s job and our finances, but we are able to pay the bills and we own a house we love.

We may not be going on fancy vacations every year, but we are still able to save a little for fun things and simple trips.

We may be completely overwhelmed with our kids sometimes, but we know the pain of infertility and loss is a hard and lonely cross.

We may still have our disagreements and communication problems, but we have come a long way in appreciating each other’s differences and growing in understanding one another.

We may not have the perfect marriage, but we know our marriage is sanctifying us…and that’s the whole point – for us to grow closer to God.

Earlier this summer, we dealt with a number of health issues, house repairs, and other ridiculous occurrences in a span of one month – all of which are not unusual in themselves, but the frequency and quantity in which they occurred was very unusual. It was overwhelming and stressful, to say the least.

But even amidst all of the craziness, we had a number of good things happen as well. June was probably the most stressful month we had in a long time – but it also produced the most fun month we had in awhile. (I know that sounds impossible. But it’s true!)

It never ceases to amaze us how God can make his presence known even in the most stressful times. For each stressor, there’s usually a consolation, from a generous friend to a special family moment. Often times one of us has to remind the other of all the good things happening among all the bad things, but thinking about our blessings together has been a great source of comfort.

I know there are times where it’s really hard to think about your blessings, especially when you’re not feeling especially fond about your marriage. When everything seems to be going wrong and you don’t know what the heck God is doing through all of it. When you see everyone’s “good moments” on social media and none of their bad ones. When you think everyone else’s marriage is perfect and yours is not. When you feel like life just hasn’t turned out the way you expected.

But we’ve seen how coming together to thank God for all He has given us, especially in our marriage, has brought us closer together. Every day we thank God together for all of his blessings, and we make sure to remind each other – especially when we’re going through a rough time – that there is always something to be thankful for, even when it doesn’t always feel that way.

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“A Month for Your Marriage” Challenge

One thing I’ve realized over the years we’ve been married is that we constantly need to put effort into our marriage. It’s way too easy to let our relationship with our spouse slide to the back-burner without even realizing it!

That’s partly why we’ve been posting weekly marriage challenges on Instagram and Facebook over the last several months (#marriagemondaychallenge). It’s a reminder every single week that we need to be intentional about our marriage.

Now you can be intentional for an entire month with our challenge cards! Dedicate a month to your marriage by completing a challenge every day for 31 days. Some are simple, some require a little more effort, but every single one is meant to bring you and your spouse closer together.

It really is the little things that foster growth in a relationship, and that’s never more true than in a marriage.

Are you ready to take “A Month for Your Marriage” challenge? Click below to buy your challenge cards! Just print, cut, and put in a basket or box to pick one every day for a month. Use the hashtag #marriagechallengecards to share on Instagram and Facebook. We’d love to see them in action!

 

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10 reasons you should go on a marriage retreat

When most people hear about a marriage retreat, they think that it’s just for couples who are struggling. While there certainly are retreats for strained marriages (Retrouvaille, anyone?), there are also some retreats for married couples who want to grow closer together by spending a weekend away, focusing on God and their marriage. It doesn’t matter if you’re a newlywed or have been married for 40 years – any couple can benefit from a marriage retreat!

We’ve been on 3 marriage retreats in 9 years of marriage…and we didn’t go on the first one until almost 5 years in. Needless to say, it was amazing and just what we needed, so we’ve made it a priority to make it a regular occurence. We HIGHLY recommend every married couple to go on a marriage retreat and to make it happen every single year, if possible (hard when you keep having babies, I know…which is why we’ve done it every 2 years).

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On our second retreat in 2016, with our youngest baby in utero

Here are 10 reasons why I think you should go on a marriage retreat (but honestly, there are even more!):

  1. God first, marriage second, then everything else. A marriage retreat helps you do exactly that!
  2. No cooking or cleaning for a weekend. (Enough said.)
  3. A retreat helps you to move forward in your marriage, especially if your marriage is in a rut. Consider it a jump-start!
  4. To know you’re not alone. Every marriage has their struggles and crosses, so hearing the stories of other couples is reassuring and comforting.
  5. It’s the perfect opportunity to talk about important topics with your spouse uninterrupted.
  6. To find encouragement and community from other couples. As a young couple, it’s so inspiring to see couples 40 years ahead of us! And the older couples are encouraged by seeing young couples putting effort into their marriage.
  7. To learn more about your spouse. There’s no better time to learn about your spouse! A couple’s vacation is fun (and also necessary at times), but the focus is still on vacation….not your marriage.
  8. To embrace the Sacraments together as a married couple.
  9. To be reminded that the Sacrament of Matrimony is a gift, and one we should make a priority.
  10. Great food! (Logan had to add that one, ha)

God wants to be an integral part in your marriage. And he should be! A marriage retreat fosters that in more ways that I can explain here.

Have you ever been on a marriage retreat? If so, what reasons would you add to the list?

In case you missed it, we vlogged during our last retreat! Check out the video:

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Vulnerability in marriage

Over the last few months, I’ve been privileged to hear people’s stories, questions, and struggles in their marriage. And I’ve noticed something – there’s a common denominator in all of the hard stuff of marriage.

Communication.

I know it sounds so simple – learn to communicate! I’m certainly not suggesting that learning to communicate better will make your marriage perfect. Our marriage certainly isn’t and we’ve actually come a loooong way in terms of communication.

What am I saying is that it is definitely worth the effort to improve communication with your spouse, and that it’s going to take a lot more than just reading books and/or seeking counseling (but both are good things that I definitely recommend!).

It’s going to take being vulnerable with each other.

You can read allll the of the marriage books in the world and meet with a counselor together every single week, but if you’re not being vulnerable with each other? Sharing everything with each other? You’re going to have a hard time.

I’m the biggest introvert of all introverts…which means I don’t like to talk. I live in my head a lot. I’d rather journal about my feelings than talk about them. My natural instinct is to just keep everything to myself and not share them with my spouse.

Our marriage really struggled for years because of that.

How was my husband supposed to know I was struggling with everything on my plate – kids, housework, volunteer responsibilities, etc – if I didn’t share that with him? How was my husband supposed to know I felt disrespected in certain relationships if I didn’t tell him? Why did I expect my husband to read my mind and know what I was thinking at every moment?

He didn’t know. He had no way to know. Because I didn’t tell him. I kept it to myself, or thought that it was silly to share some of those things with him. The mind of an introvert can be crazy, after all. But it goes both ways…

How was I supposed to know my husband felt like he wasn’t providing enough for our family? How was I supposed to know my husband felt stuck when it came to his job situation if he didn’t tell me?

I didn’t know. I had no way to know. Because he didn’t tell me. He thought I was disappointed in him or that I’d assume he was unhappy with our current situation.

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Keeping things to yourself tends to lead to bitterness and resentment and a heck of a lot of misunderstanding. Which leads to your spouse withdrawing. With leads to two very unhappy people.

But if you’re sharing everything with each other? Your good moments, your struggles, and everything in between? That’s the kind of marriage we wanted. That’s the kind of marriage we’ve started to have.

If you’re starting to feel resentful about the fact that your spouse doesn’t pull his/her weight around the house, tell them that! (Gently, please.)

If you need encouragement from your spouse to apply for a new job, start a business, or [insert scenario here], tell them that!

If your needs aren’t being met in the bedroom, tell your spouse that! (Oh, but please, please first tell your spouse how wonderful they are and how much you love being intimate with him/her. Build up your spouse first, then say: “I would like to work on XYZ though. Can we talk about that?”)

You can’t complain about not getting something if you haven’t asked for it. And you can’t expect your spouse to read your mind.

On the flip side, if one spouse is being vulnerable and opening up about something, the other spouse needs to listen. No belittling, no mocking, none of that. The listening spouse needs to be vulnerable too by offering unconditional love and support! It can be hard, especially if a big issue is brought up, and especially if it might be painful to hear. But you can’t grow in your marriage without addressing the hard stuff. (Marriage requires a heck of a lot of humility, too.)

Sometimes I wonder now if we share too much. Did he really need to know during the World Cup that I thought Russia’s goalie was extremely handsome? Did he really need to share his, um, trip to the bathroom in extreme detail?

Perhaps that’s going to be different in everyone’s marriage. But for us, sharing absolutely everything has been a game-changer. We know what each other is thinking now because we actually say it. We know how to support each other. We know that being vulnerable with each other is exactly why we’ve grown in intimacy and in love for each other.

We know that vulnerability in our marriage is how we will get each other to Heaven.

 

I hate to say this but feel it is necessary: if you suspect your spouse is emotionally abusive, this post is not for you. Please seek the help of a counselor or spiritual director!