It’s that time again… time to start thinking about Lent! This is the third year we’re offering a Lent Challenge for Catholic Marriages. For every day of Lent, we have a challenge for you to complete together. Then refer to the Lent challenge guide for more thoughts about each challenge and ideas on how to complete it.
The challenges range from fun to spiritual. There are many ways to connect and pray together, and we wanted to include as many of them as possible. Hopefully this Lent challenge will help you figure out which devotions and small acts of love you want to continue once Lent is over. More importantly, it will help you connect with your spouse each day of Lent!
Also included is a blank calendar for February, March, and April that you can use to keep track of your Lent commitments and events, or you can fill in challenges of your own.
As we like to say with both our Lent and Advent challenges: don’t let these challenges stress you out. Yes, some of them may get you out of your comfort zone a little bit. But if you miss a day (or two…or three), just pick back up where you left off. The goal is to spend time together and pray together throughout the Lenten season. Click here or the button below to purchase.
Note: This is a digital download. A physical product will not be mailed to you. After checking out, you will receive an email with a link to download the PDF. Please do not share the file with anyone. If you’d like to print multiple copies, please email us for licensing options. Thank you!
Back in 2019, we started this Advent challenge for Catholic couples as a simple way to prepare for Christmas together with your spouse, while making your marriage a priority. So many have found it helpful, and we have even done a Lent challenge for 2 years now!
So here it is again: our 2022 Advent Challenge for Catholic Couples.
Our inspiration for this Advent challenge
Advent should be a calm and peaceful time, but often it’s the busiest time of the year! In the weeks leading up to Christmas, it’s very easy to get focused on shopping, parties, and everything else holiday-related.
But let’s not forget about our marriages.
Advent and marriage have a special link—both point us toward heaven.
Use this Advent season to draw closer to each other, to foster your relationship together, and to remind each other of the end goal—eternal life in heaven. And we’ve created something to help you do exactly that!
A calendar with a simple challenge each day
This challenge includes both a calendar with a simple challenge each day, as well as a guide that gives you some ideas on how to complete each challenge.
As an added bonus, we also include a blank calendar in case you want to make up your own challenges or switch some of the challenges around. Both calendars include feast days (because hey, Catholic marriage!). We really do hope and pray this will enrich your marriage and Advent season together! That being said…
Do not let these challenges stress you out. Skip a day, if necessary, or switch the challenges around to better suit your schedule. These challenges are to make sure you’re spending time together and praying together. Peace is the goal….not stress. Okay? Okay.
The Advent challenge and guide is available in our shop! Add it to your cart by clicking the button below (or click here if it’s not showing up)…
Note: This is a digital download. A physical product will not be mailed to you. After checking out, you will receive an email with a link to download the PDF. Please do not share the file with anyone. If you’d like to print multiple copies to share as gifts, please purchase multiple copies, or contact us for group licenses. Thank you!
Every year, we like to propose a challenge for your marriage during Lent: pick one thing to do together throughout Lent. It’s easy to go overboard and pick several things to do, but just pick one or two!
We’ve really come to see the power of doing one small thing together and how that can lead us to holiness. While giving up sweets or alcohol or something like that isn’t a bad thing, just make sure you’re picking something that will have a positive impact on your marriage and spiritual life together.
And remember, it’s not supposed to be easy! When you’re deciding on what to do, it’s also good to remember the three pillars of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. So while we’re encouraging you to pick only one thing to do together, you should still focus on all three pillars throughout Lent.
Ready for some ideas for what you can do during Lent with your spouse? In no particular order, here we go!
Do the enrichment program Beloved: Mystery & Meaning of Marriage. If your church parish has a subscription to Formed.org, you could do Beloved for free! There are 6 sessions, so you can do one each week in Lent.
Sign up for the Pray More Retreat. It’s a self-paced online retreat with talks, videos, and study guides. The topics look so good and would be great conversation starters!
Wake up earlier to connect and pray together.
Go on a marriage retreat.
Take Natural Family Planning classes, if you haven’t done so yet (or have been putting it off!).
Don’t watch TV. But be sure to replace that TV time with something better!
Pray a daily Rosary.
Go to daily Mass during the week (in addition to meeting your Sunday obligation).
Donate extra money to your church or favorite charity.
Listen to a talk about Catholicism or marriage and family life each week. Catholic Productions has a great selection, and there are several awesome talks in their marriage and family life category. (Both CDs and MP3s are available.)
Do the Stations of the Cross together each Friday.
Do the enrichment program United in Love-United in Christ. We did this one year with a large group of couples at our church, and it was great! You could do it with a small group in your own home as well, meeting once a week for 6 weeks.
Adrienne and I “met” on Instagram and became (long-distant) friends offline. When I found out about her story, I asked her to share here, because it’s the perfect example of why we shouldn’t make judgments about other people’s family size, because we very rarely know all of the details.
Nobody gets married and expects to deal with pregnancy loss, infertility, and even the complete loss of fertility. So often couples experience hard things and think they are the only ones, but that is never the case. That’s one of the reasons we started Surprised By Marriage.Through the crosses we experience, God can draw us closer to him and closer to each other. -Jen
It wasn’t something we saw coming. I didn’t even know the disease had been silently destroying me for years until 2015, when I was 32 years old. By then, we had already lost so much.
My husband and I were married in 2009. We had committed ourselves to a chaste relationship so our honeymoon was deeply special. We also brought home a tiny souvenir, though it would be two more weeks before I got a positive pregnancy test.
Three months after the birth of our oldest daughter, we got pregnant again. This would come to be the first devastating loss we’d go through as a couple. At thirteen weeks pregnant, I lost our son. My husband baptized him in our bathroom, and we buried him at the Veterans cemetery where the sun rose and set just behind his grave everyday.
Watching my husband cry as he baptized our first son in our home is burned in my memory forever. Losing our sweet John really taught us both how fragile life is. We both learned what a blessing both pregnancy and birth are. I would like to say the loss brought us closer, but this first loss taught us how not to grieve and process a miscarriage. We isolated ourselves from one another and failed to check in on each other. We didn’t come together in prayer. We were so broken in our grief, we were just trying to survive. It wasn’t until later that we circled back and admitted our mistakes during that time.
The pain from adolescence returns
We would go on to have two more girls. As a teenager and young adult, I always had terrible cycles, which caused me deep embarrassment and shame. While the difficult cycles eased during the first couple of years after marriage, they became increasingly terrible again after our second daughter was born. After each birth, when my cycles returned, they were worse than before.
Following a very difficult pregnancy, our third child was born in December of 2013. Shortly after her birth, our daughter was diagnosed with failure to thrive. By the time she was five months old, she had already been admitted to the hospital for RSV and had significant health issues. Our other daughters were ages 4 and 2 at the time. Needless to say, life was overwhelming.
In June 2014, my husband was unexpectedly deployed. Days after his departure, I found out I was pregnant again.
That night after testing, I miscarried again at five weeks. I could not deal with another miscarriage while my husband was gone. Without realizing it at the time, I went into denial and thought it was a false positive. He came home four months later, and soon after, we were pregnant again. Despite our youngest being less than a year old, we were thrilled. It was Thanksgiving morning when we found out, and I’ve never been more grateful on a Thanksgiving.
A pregnancy of joy and sorrow
That pregnancy, more than any others, felt laced with the Divine. There was a very distinct taste of Heaven during those first few months. I have never in my life been that completely joyful. I truly believe the Lord was preparing me for what was to come.
In 2015, eighteen weeks into the pregnancy, I lost our second son. It was our third and most devastating loss. I found out at a routine appointment, when the Doppler was silent again. I remember screaming over and over, “Please, God, not again!” That night, I was admitted to Labor and Delivery for an induction as a woman labored and gave birth to a healthy baby next door.
I felt as though I lived a sample of Christ’s Passion that night. My soul was burning in anguish as I labored through the night. A piece of me died that day. I didn’t understand why fertility and birth came so easily to some women but was so terribly hard for me. I wept to my husband, “What’s wrong with me?!”
Finally, some answers
After my stillbirth, I finally started getting answers at a follow-up with my gynecologist. I found out that I had a clotting disorder, as well as endometriosis with adenomyosis—which is basically endometriosis’s evil sister.
Unlike endometriosis, which is uterine tissue that grows on the outside of the uterus, adenomyosis grows within the walls of the uterus, slowly eating away and destroying the organ itself. There’s no treatment and no way to do corrective surgery (which can be done with endometriosis). With severe cases, most women end up needing a hysterectomy. My doctor told me I’d probably end up needing one, but that I had a good five years before then. I wish that had been true.
A month later, in August of 2015—thanks in huge part to our Creighton provider and my gynecologist—we found out I was pregnant again. My anxiety was extremely high during that pregnancy. I was on blood thinners, progesterone, baby aspirin, and extra methylated folate. My prayers for a healthy baby were both constant and desperate. I needed this child to survive.
One late night in April of 2016, after laboring for several hours, I gave birth to my third son. I held my son to my chest as both of us cried. I had finally given birth to a healthy son. God is so good.
Adenomyosis and its destruction
My cycles returned that summer, but my health deteriorated quickly. I was in bed all the time in immense pain. It wasn’t until November that I had another laparoscopy to remove endometriosis. My gynecologist found almost none…but he did find that the adenomyosis had eaten a hole through my uterus and destroyed it. My Creighton provider said that between my charts and laparoscopy results, we were sure to lose any pregnancies if we were even able to get pregnant again.
My health continued to worsen. I could no longer get out of bed most days. My entire abdomen was in debilitating pain, and I was hemorrhaging. In an emergency appointment, my doctor leaned across his desk. “I know you wanted a larger family. I’m sorry. But we have to do this.” He was crying. I grabbed my husband’s hand and wept.
The surgery was scheduled for his next available operating day. In the few days between, I begged for a miracle and pleaded for another answer. Proverbial doors and windows slammed in my face. I felt deep sweeping grief and shame. As a Catholic wife and mother, I felt I had failed. As I prayed through the emotions and we sought counsel from two priests, my husband patiently stood as a sounding board to my thoughts while affirming me we were doing the right thing—the only thing left to do. I needed a hysterectomy.
The morning of the surgery, I felt surprising peace. My doctor kept comforting me. My husband prayed with me. The day before, I had received Anointing of the Sick. I felt as ready as I would. Just before being wheeled back, I took my last pregnancy test.
The grief and shame of hysterectomy
For the year following the surgery, I felt deep shame at the loss of my fertility. There were no books that I could find by Catholic women in my situation. Many Catholic women asked when we were going to have more children. Someone told me that having a hysterectomy was against Church’s teachings and another told me I’d committed a mortal sin.** This just added to my grief, pain, and shame.
During it all, my husband stood by, affirming me that my womanhood was still precious, insisting that I’d been brave and strong. He was angry for me and grieved with me. My husband accepted with great peace and saintly strength the cross laid upon our shoulders. Looking back, I’m grateful for his strength and prayer during my physical and emotional recovery. He truly lived out, in his quiet way, “in sickness and in health.” It taught us the importance of communicating our feelings and being receptive to the other’s feelings. We realized how critical it is to check in on one another. While we did the best we could, there are always lessons on how we can be more fully present for our spouse.
I don’t feel the shame of the hysterectomy anymore. I can talk about it and feel the pain without it paralyzing me. The grief of losing my babies and my fertility will probably hurt for the remainder of my time in this life. But I’ve learned this over and over: God never lets Satan win. He always brings greater good out of suffering. Though I may never see it on this side of Heaven, joy always comes in the morning.
Adrienne Stravitsch is an Army wife and mother of four children on earth. She has experienced multiple pregnancy losses as well as infertility. When she’s not homeschooling or loving on her husband and children, she can be found with her nose in a book or writing behind a keyboard. You can find her on Instagram @stravgirl, or her blog, Trust with Wild Abandon.
**Church teaching regarding a hysterectomy is explained in this post on the Vatican’s website (as a follow-up to this document). A hysterectomy is licit when medical experts deem the uterus incapable of carrying a pregnancy to term.
Although this post is inspired by the craziness caused by COVID-19, this is still applicable to couples who just had a baby or are dealing with illness or any other situation that keeps you stuck at home.
It’s actually the perfect time to focus on your marriage when you’re at home for an extended period, because the list of distractions is a lot shorter. And there might be a little more, um, issues that arise since you’re in close quarters. So here are some ways you can foster your marriage while stuck at home:
1. Pray together.
We say this all of the time, and we will say it forever. Praying together every day helps you grow closer together and closer to God all at the same time. It improves communication and helps you to get more on the same page. If there is one thing you do for your marriage during this time, make it this one!
2. Have a date night in.
You know we’re big fans of going on dates (check out our date night guide!), but what if we can’t go anywhere? Make a night at home special (which we do talk about in our date night guide). The key is to make it different than any other night at home! We try to put the kids to bed early so we can have extra time together. We pick a fun activity to do and a special treat to share. This may require some creativity, but that just makes it extra special. For an extra twist, pick a theme for your date night in! Check out our freebie to help you with themed home dates.
3. Do something new together.
This is a great time to find a hobby to share together – baking (we made a cake together once! Watch that video here), crafting, cooking, exercising, building…whatever it is that you’ve never done together before.
4. Play a game together.
Cards, board games, or you could do something like the “not so newlywed” game! Ask each other questions and see if you can guess what each other will say. Check out our “fun and games” playlist on our YouTube channel for some ideas. We also have a freebie to help you play the “Him or Her?” game!
5. Work on a project together.
We’re using this time to do some of the things we’ve been meaning to do. Clean up the yard, paint, create a prayer space in your home, etc. It’s so nice to work on something together and see the results!
6. Go outside together.
Some fresh air really helps, especially during stressful times! We’ve been praying a rosary outside together by our Mary garden, and it’s so nice. You could go for a walk, work on the yard together, etc.
Over the last 10+ years of marriage, I’ve noticed something. My marriage is doing the best when I’m being intentional about doing small things for my husband. It doesn’t even matter how small—what matters is that I’m doing something.
I used to be that wife who always wanted my husband to do more, to be better, to love me in certain ways that he seemed incapable of doing. (Okay, I still have my moments…) But what I’ve realized is that he wasn’t intentionally not doing all of those things. He simply needed a little love first!
Do one small act of love each day
That was the inspiration behind 40 Days of Loving Your Husband. (Sorry guys, this is for the ladies…but you will appreciate it!) For 40 days, you can pick a card with a simple act of love to perform for your husband. Just cut out the cards and put them in a basket! If picking a random thing isn’t your jam, there’s also a checklist with the same 40 items. Pick one yourself to do and check it off the list. The whole idea is to do a small act of love each day.
This can be done during Lent (although Sundays aren’t included in the 40 days), whenever your marriage is in a rut, or during a period your husband needs some extra love and affirmation. Some of these acts of love may come naturally to you, while others may be completely out of your comfort zone. But it’s important to make time for your husband and your marriage each day. Small things really do make a difference. I know that when I’m doing little things for my husband, he notices. And he reciprocates in a big way!
Try the 40-day challenge and see if you notice a difference in your marriage. To purchase, click the button below…
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There are so many occasions that we buy gifts for couples or just our spouse—birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, Christmas, etc. We’re all about buying meaningful gifts that will enrich marriages—whether it’s a fun board game, a book about prayer, or an item that reminds us of our faith…just to name a few.
We wanted to include gifts specifically for couples, or gifts that have options for both men and women. Here is our gift guide!
Clothing and Jewelry
Wooden saint medal bracelets from Kindred Forest Co. – for men and women! You could even get matching saints.
Saintsgoals shirts from Annunciation Designs – these are awesome! There is a graphic tee option for both men and women (see pictures below!)
We love going on dates. We go through phases where we’re really good about making it happen regularly. But then there are phases where it’s realllllly hard to make a date happen. Schedules are crazy, budget is tight, kids get sick…you know how it goes.
Over the years, we’ve gotten really creative when it comes to date night and have learned so much when it comes to making the most of every date. We also can identify with many of the obstacles that keep couples from going on dates (babysitting and budget!).
So we decided to write a Date Night Guide for Married Couples. It’s not just a bunch of date night ideas, because you can find that anywhere! (Okay, we did include some ideas, but that’s just lagniappe.)
We really wanted to share our thoughts about what we do on every date, how to make date night happen despite all of the obstacles, and to encourage you to keep trying to make dates a priority.
If you’re still not sure if our date night guide is for you, ask yourself these questions…
Do you desperately want alone time with your spouse but having trouble figuring out how to make it happen?
Do you feel like whenever you do go on a date, you’re not connecting with each other the way you should?
Do you want to make the most of every date night, whether it happens once a week or once a year?
Do you wonder if it’s even worth the effort to go on dates?
If you answered yes to any of those, this guide is for you. Whether you’re struggling to go on dates or you’re actually pretty consistent with it, there’s something in this guide for everyone!
This 22-page Date Night Guide for Married Couples (in PDF form) will help you do several things:
Identify obstacles to date night
Get suggestions on how to overcome those obstacles
Make the most of your date night, regardless of how often it happens (this is our favorite part of the guide!)
Connect spiritually and emotionally
Consider other factors, like each other’s personalities, when it comes to planning dates
Brainstorm ways to connect when leaving the house isn’t feasible
Include your faith into every date night
We are both passionate about the importance of going on dates and know that they have contributed to both the emotional and spiritual growth of our marriage. It is our prayer that this guide does the same for your marriage!