7 Tips for a More Peaceful Christmas

Looking to the Holy Family can help you rise above the stress of the season

The Holy Family had the first stressful Christmas. Imagine what it must have been like for the Blessed Virgin Mary. Cross-country trip by donkey while nine months pregnant. Arriving late to a Bethlehem crowded to maximum capacity. No reservations. Dealing with a whole town full of in-laws. Giving birth in the equivalent of someone else’s garage. Visits from unexpected guests describing unusual visions. And, overnight, her husband decides that they need to flee the country. Because of a dream he had.

Not that it was any easier for St. Joseph. He must have felt torn between the pressure of getting to Bethlehem in time to fulfill his legal duty and concern about his very pregnant wife and the baby. Finding parking for the donkey. Finding a place to stay. Leading the family out of mortal danger. Hoping that Mary would understand about the whole “because an angel told me in a dream” thing. Continue reading →

What Can You do to Build a Culture of Life?

Help bring St. John Paul II’s vision to fruition through everyday acts of service

One evening around this time last year, our doorbell rang. With my newborn daughter tucked in one arm, I opened our front door to discover an entire family — mom, dad and two school-aged children, a boy and a girl — all dressed in matching Seahawks jerseys, standing on our front stoop. Seahawks Mom held a giant lidded Tupperware bowl full of chili, and Seahawks Dad was carrying a grocery bag with tortilla chips peeking out the top. Seahawks Son carried a plate of cookies. They were from the parish meal-train ministry, and they had signed up to bring us dinner that night to help us out after the birth of our new baby. Their much appreciated act of service is one great example of how families can help build the “culture of life.” Continue reading →

Top 10 Reasons Why I Love NFP

It’s pro-life, pro-woman, pro-family and green!

When we were engaged, Nathan and I took a natural family planning class. Word got out that we were planning on using NFP when we were married, and some folks took the opportunity to tell us the old joke. “What do you call people who use NFP?” they asked, with a knowing chuckle. “Parents!”

It’s true, we are parents thanks to NFP, but that is because the information it gave us has helped us know when we can conceive and when we are not likely to. Using NFP has actually been a huge blessing in our marriage. As newlyweds with years of college and grad school ahead of us (complete with attendant student loans!), we were a little anxious at first. Giving up control requires trust. This is all the more true with birth control. But when we trust God and our spouse with our fertility, the rewards are amazing. Continue reading →

Preparing to Meet Your Future Husband or Wife

First nurture your relationship with God, and he will take care of the rest

My grandparents recently reminisced about how they first met at an amusement park and dance hall on the bank of the Columbia River in Portland. A mutual friend arranged to set them up. “It was going to be my last blind date,” Grandpa recalled.

“And it was,” Grandma affirmed, “… wasn’t it?” Fortunately for their children and all of us grandchildren, it was. They fell in love, married, and are enjoying a fruitful and faith-filled union now in its seventh decade. Continue reading →

Date Mass: Unlock the Romantic Potential

The Eucharist is a ‘communion of life and love’ and so is marriage. Why not celebrate them together?

You’ve probably heard a common piece of advice to married couples for keeping romance alive: Have a regular date night. Good idea! But have you ever tried a date Mass? Though it may sound unconventional, the idea of a date Mass actually points to the heart of Catholic sacramental marriage. And this is not just romantic, it’s passionate. So, Catholic husbands and wives, good news! Something as routine as going to church together can have a powerful effect on your marriage.

Nathan and I planned our first date Mass a few years ago when we were members of St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Everett. We sang as part of a small schola at the Saturday vigil Mass. We usually had our young school-aged daughters in the choir loft with us. Continue reading →

Pray Together Stay Together: Fact or Fiction?

Strengthen your marriage and share in the sweetness of Christ’s love

I remember it felt a little awkward the first few times Nathan and I prayed at home as husband and wife when we were first married. It felt so intimate to speak our deepest prayers out loud. Just before falling asleep, we faced the ceiling together — toward heaven! — thanked God for our marriage, and prayed for our family, relatives, friends, the church and the world.

Thirteen years after our wedding, through many major life changes — including children (four), job changes (seven for him, four for me), school degrees (four in all) and household moves (also four) — our nighttime prayer routine has become a familiar habit that strengthens our marriage and draws us closer to each other and to God, the source of all love. Even if I’ve stayed up after Nathan falls asleep, I’ll still snuggle up and pray aloud next to him. I’m often surprised to hear him join in at the end with a groggy “amen.” Continue reading →

The 7 Habits of Highly Successful Marriages

This presentation was given at Holy Family Church in Kirkland, WA, on August 5, 2013.

View the Prezi slideshow here.

The Benefits of Marriage:

Why work on strengthening marriage? Husbands and wives enjoy better physical health, quicker recovery from disease and injuries, longer life, greater incomes and household wealth, greater mental health and happiness, and greater satisfaction in their sexual lives than their single, cohabiting, or divorced counterparts. Children growing up with their married mother and father are happier, do better academically, have fewer problems with drugs, delinquency, and early sexual activity, and have more successful marriages of their own than those raised by single, unmarried, or divorced parents. Married households have more resources to devote to the community in volunteer and service work.

Marriages facing serious trouble can find great help in the Retrouvaille program

The Seven Habits of Highly Successful Marriages:

1. Develop Good Communication Skills

2. Work Together on Money Management

3. Learn how to Manage Conflict

4. Share Faith and Values

5. Respect the Sanctity of Sex in Marriage

  • Premarital sex and cohabiting are linked to higher rates of divorce
  • They are correlated with higher rates of infidelity in marriage, another big factor in divorce
  • Pornography use is also cited as a major factor in divorce
  • Chastity is the virtue of using sex as God intended: exclusively with your husband or wife to celebrate a total mutual self-giving in a faithful, life-long and life-giving covenant.
  • No matter what choices we’ve made in the past, Christ can always give us the grace to be made new in Him. He can restore our dignity and help us grow in chastity, healing the effects of sin and giving us the power of His own love to strengthen, purify, and elevate the love we share with our husband or wife in our marriage today and in the future.

6. Practice Natural Family Planning rather than contraception to space births when necessary

  • The levels of intimacy, communication, respect, self-control, and mutual responsibility required by NFP draws couples together. Here is a great post about the benefits in marriage of using NFP from the husband’s perspective (he and his wife switched to NFP from the Pill after several years of marriage). And some more testimonies of NFP couples.
  • Some data suggests that couples practicing NFP have a divorce rate of 0.2%. Conservatively adjusted, still less than 5%.

7. Grow in Holiness and Virtue

  • Draw on the power of the Sacraments to connect with the Source of Love (God Himself!).