5 Good Attitudes to Bring to Your Marriage

Several years ago, I was having dinner with a friend who recounted the tale of a wedding ceremony he had attended. The couple had written their own vows, which included the line “for as long as our love shall last.” My friend was shocked—sure, about 50 percent of marriages end in divorce, but most marriages don’t begin with that end in mind. And yet here we are.

If we want healthy and happy marriages, we can’t approach the altar with such a negative attitude. We need to hold onto and cultivate good mindsets that will allow our marriages to flourish. Here are 5 good attitudes in marriage that will lead to growth, appreciation, and long-lasting love.

Should I Make My Teen _____________?

When I was a youth minister, I had more than one parent approach me to talk about a defiant teen. Many teens go through a rebellious phase. They crave freedom and independence, and they often reject the traditions of their parents for the practices of their friends. So what do you do? Can a parent force a child to do something he or she doesn’t want to do? No. But parents can spend time and energy trying.

When counseling parents about their teens, I often suggest that they pick their battles carefully. Sometimes you need to stand your ground, and sometimes you need to let go. The question you have to ask is this: “Should I try to make them do this or might this be a battle not worth fighting?” Here are 5 situations you’ll probably face with your teen and whether to force or be flexible.

Sharing the Gospel Isn’t Just for Priests

A few months back, I went out to dinner with a few friends and friends-of-friends. It was a mixed group of both Catholics and non-Catholic Christians, and at some point we got onto the topic of prayer. We began comparing different forms of prayer, but as our conversation continued, one of the mothers present began to appear visibly more agitated. Finally, she just burst out, “Prayer is personal, and we should all just keep it to ourselves. You’re all just being very judge-y towards those of us who aren’t as holy as you!” We were all immediately brought to silence and quickly changed the subject.

The mom’s comment continued to bother me for the rest of the night. Had I been judging her? Definitely not consciously. I didn’t really know that much about her prayer life. I had shared a bit about my spiritual life, but I’d never intended to compare it to others. The conversation had always seemed very positive to me, and I had enjoyed learning about the different approaches to prayer embraced by the different moms.

Once I felt confident that I had never attempted to judge the other moms, I began to consider the other comments. Was prayer just personal? Well, in one sense, of course it was. It was my prayer after all. The prayers I prayed alone were personal, but that didn’t mean that I couldn’t share them. I regularly shared insights I had gained while meditating on the Scriptures. On occasion, I talked with my friends about how my prayer life was improving based on new or altered prayer forms. I shared the books I read, and the reflections I made. My personal prayer was mine, but it was also mine to share.

At the core of this other mom’s argument was the idea that our prayer was meant to be private. It was supposed to be done behind closed doors, and that’s where it was supposed to stay. Prayer was not a public matter. It was not supposed to be shared. It was not meant to be imposed on others.

But I had never intended to impose my faith on the other moms. I was not trying to convert the non-Catholics, or accusing the other Catholics of not being as holy as me. Yes, I want to be holy, but I still think I have a lot of work to do. I didn’t see this dinner as primarily an evangelization opportunity; it had been a socialization event. I had gone to enjoy myself, to share stories, to enjoy communion with other moms. But that still left me wondering: Is faith really meant to be private? Am I not supposed to evangelize?

I have had well-meaning Catholics argue that evangelization is just for the priests. That’s why they give homilies. They are meant to be the great evangelizers, not us. We’re just supposed to practice our faith in private, or inside the church walls at the most. The priests are the ones who are supposed to be spreading the Gospel.

But that’s just not the Gospel truth. That idea is just not biblical. Sure, the Apostles were all priests, but there were also plenty of non-priests who were missionaries and evangelists in their own neighborhoods. There was Stephen, a deacon (and therefore not a priest) who was martyred for proclaiming the faith in the public square and in the synagogue. There was Lydia, a female entrepreneur who also opened her home to the early Church. There were Priscilla and Aquila, a married couple who served as missionaries under St. Paul. Even the male missionaries, who were most likely priests and bishops, were not preaching in churches as you think of them today. They preached in the synagogues, yes, but they were also preaching on the street corners, in peoples’ homes, in the public square. Clearly, no one thought that the faith was meant to be a private matter.

And why should it be? Think about the Gospel message. Jesus Christ came to die and rise again to new life so that we might enjoy eternal life with God in Heaven after we die. This is good news for all people. This is a promise that speaks of eternity. No wonder people wanted to share it. Everyone needs to hear it. And deep in the human heart, everyone wants to hear it. The promise of eternal life and love speaks to the deepest longings of the human heart, something we cannot do on our own, but only through the power of God. So no, preaching the Gospel message is not just for priests at the pulpit. It’s for every Christian who truly believes. Because if you believe in the Good News- the fact that Jesus Christ came, died, and rose so that we might have eternal life- why wouldn’t you want to share it with the world? It’s the best news anyone will ever get.

The Crazy, “Stupid” Love of the Father

When I used to hear the parable of the lost sheep in the Gospel, I always thought I was missing something. I mean, what kind of shepherd is going to leave 99 sheep just to find the stupid one that got itself lost? I thought I didn’t understand something about first century Palestinian shepherds, like maybe they’d get fired for losing one sheep, so it was worth leaving the other sheep to go find the missing one so that the shepherds could hopefully keep their job. Or maybe shepherds always worked in pairs, so while one shepherd went looking for the lost sheep, Jesus’ listeners could assume the other one was watching the rest of the flock. Otherwise, abandoning 99 sheep to find one lost one just doesn’t seem logical. It doesn’t make sense. It’s stupid.

It wasn’t until recently that I learned that Jesus meant for the shepherd to sound stupid. Only a crazy shepherd would have abandoned the rest of his flock to find one lost sheep. The shepherd in the parable really is stupid. Jesus’ listeners would have known that the shepherd’s response was unreasonable. So what was Jesus getting at when He seems to be comparing Himself to the crazy, stupid shepherd?

Jesus is talking about the crazy, “stupid” love of God. God’s love for us is unreasonable. He loves us even when we are still sinners. He loves us even though we are unlovable. He loves us like the crazy shepherd loves his stupid sheep. And we can be pretty dumb.

God’s love is illogical. You do not abandon 99 sheep for the sake of one. That makes no sense. But God’s logic is not like ours. He will always go after the one. He will always seek out the lost and bring them home. The value of one life is endless. The love He has for each one of us is inexhaustible. One sheep is worth the same as 99 because their worth is infinite in the eyes of the Father. And one infinity is the same as ninety-nine. We are loved by an infinite God who can only love us with an infinite love, the kind of love that drives a shepherd to search out the lost sheep, a father to run out and embrace his prodigal son, God Himself to become man and die so that sinners might be offered the gift of eternal life. That is the crazy, “stupid” love of God.

When Jesus shared the parable of the shepherd and his lost sheep, He was looking to shock His listeners. He wanted them to stop and think about His words. He wanted them to pause and wonder, Did I hear that right? And they did. The shepherd’s decision was supposed to sound stupid. That’s what Jesus intended. The love of the Father for His wayward children is shocking. He loves when it doesn’t make sense to love. He loves those who don’t seem like they deserve to be loved. He loves those who abandon Him, those who are lost. That’s what Jesus came to show us- the crazy, “stupid” love of God.

Identifying the 5 Love Languages in Children

A few months ago, as I was scrambling to get lunch on the table, I called for my two kids to start cleaning up. I was just spooning macaroni and cheese onto plates when I heard the two of them laughing from the other room. I was on the verge of exploding when I peeked my head around the corner and nearly had a heart attack. The room was spotless. The kids had actually cleaned up the entire living room, and I hadn’t even needed to repeat myself once. It had been my son’s idea, and it was only one of many times that he went out of his way to serve. My son loves through acts of service, which is a beautiful way of loving, but one completely unfamiliar to me.

My primary love language is quality time, but as an adult, I know how to speak the other languages a bit. I know how to love people who don’t love the way I do. But most kids can’t do that. Most kids show love the same way they want to receive it, so knowing your child’s love language and how to speak it is extremely important. Take a look at these tips for speaking each of the 5 love languages to your children.

1. Quality Time

My son absolutely loves spending time with me. When I announce that I’m heading to the store to pick up a few things, my son immediately volunteers to come along for the ride. He does the same with my husband. At first, we both got internally annoyed when he asked to tag along- errands with even one kid takes twice as long as those without- but eventually we realized that this was how our son best received love. A trip to the grocery store might not sound like “quality” time, but when you have siblings, one-on-one time in any capacity is worth it.

2. Acts of Service

As I already demonstrated, one of my son’s strongest love languages, especially when it comes to showing love to others, is acts of service. Children who speak this love language often will anticipate the needs of others with startling accuracy. They will look for opportunities to help their loved ones and often need little encouragement to do something kind for someone else. Just remember that with children, their definition of “helpful” might not be the same as yours.

3. Physical Touch

My daughter’s primary love language is unquestionably physical touch, as was mine as a child. Some of my most restful and pleasurable memories of my childhood include getting back rubs or having my hair braided by my mother. The physical contact was always soothing, and now I can see the same desire in my daughter. She loves sitting in my lap and being held while we pray and talk, and even when we’re just sitting on the couch watching TV, I can always feel her subtle shifts as she edges closer to me until we are touching.

4. Gift-Giving

Children whose primary love language is gift-giving can often be found creating artwork and other gifts for their loved ones. They often are very aware of what gifts they receive and from whom. They might be reluctant to part with old gifts, since they are all tokens of love in the mind of these children. If your child speaks the love language of gift-giving, you might consider letting them pick gifts for their parents and siblings for birthdays and other holidays.

5. Words of Affirmation

All children crave affirmation, but it is especially important for those kids whose love language is words of affirmation. They will often look for praise and recognition for their accomplishments, however small. They need to hear that their parents love them, and in a very real way, it is not enough to show these children that they are loved. As I once heard from a teen-aged student- “My dad never told me that he loved me, and I was probably in middle school before I realized that all of the things he did for me- that was how he was showing me that he loved me. I just didn’t know it because I needed to hear him say it.”

An Easy Guide to Making Hard Decisions

When I was a senior in college, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I was six months from graduation, and I had two awesome opportunities ahead of me- I had been accepted to a fantastic graduate program and a domestic volunteering program. Both had so much promise, so how could I possibly pick one?

As I agonized over my decision, a mentor of mine helped guide me through the process of discernment. He provided me with a step-by-step process for making decisions based on the writings of Ignatius of Loyola, who wrote extensively on the topic. By the time I announced my decision to get my Master’s degree, I was feeling confident with the direction I had chosen for my life. Since then, I’ve used the same process countless times. So do you need to make a hard decision? This guide will make it feel easy.

1. Identify the decision that you are attempting to make, along with any and all potential outcomes.

This is the time to use your imagination. Go wild, and consider all the possible outcomes for the decision you need to make. Obviously, there are always factors that will remain unaccounted for, but it’s always best to make your decision after spending some time in prayer and reflection, considering how this decision might affect you in the future.

2. Take note of your gut feelings, intuition, and emotions.

If you are peacefully approaching the decision-making process and trust the Lord to guide you, then you can feel free to trust your gut. If you’re anxious and stressed while contemplating your choices, your emotions could lead you in the wrong direction. But if you’re at peace, your intuition can really help you know where God wants you. Even if you don’t choose to listen to your gut in the end, it’s always worth taking into consideration. Oftentimes, God places emotions and desires in our hearts because He really wants us to pursue them.

3. Create a pros and cons list.

I am a huge fan of the classic pros and cons list. The Ignatian discernment process uses a nuanced version of the classic list when making decisions. Begin by listing all the pros and cons regarding your decision. If you’re choosing between two options, create pros and cons lists for both options. Be exhaustive, and be honest with yourself. When I was debating between volunteering and continuing my education, the flexibility to return home frequently was a huge pro for getting my Master’s degree. That might be minor for some people, but it was extremely important to me.

4. Eliminate the lesser pros and cons. When I was discerning between volunteering and getting my Master’s degree, the fact that he volunteering program came with housing was a terrific pro. However, I also knew that if I chose to continue my education, I would have plenty of housing options (and another choice to make). The housing situation for the volunteer program was a convenient pro, but it wasn’t really an important one. Consider your priorities, and eliminate any lesser pros and cons.

5. Circle a maximum of the three most significant pros and cons surrounding your choice.

This is where my desires and gut feelings really came to the fore. As I reviewed what remained of my pros and cons lists, I could feel my heartstrings being pulled toward specific pros and cons that I was just not willing to part with. Identify those most important pros and cons on your list, and circle them.

6. Consider the number of circled pros and cons in general, as well as the nature of each pro and con specifically.

Once you’ve narrowed down your pros and cons list and highlighted those pros and cons that are most important to you, spend some time in prayer reflecting on what you’ve discovered so far in the discernment process. Weigh each pro and con individually, and reflect on how the discernment process might have changed how you feel about each of the options in front of you.

7. Take your altered list to prayer, spend some time reflecting on what your list has revealed, and then make your decision in peace and confidence.

Oftentimes, your choice will become clear during the process of eliminating lesser pros and cons and identifying the most important ones. If it doesn’t, spend some time in prayer and then choose the option that seems best. At this point in the discernment process, you can feel confident that you have prayerfully weighed your options and can trust the decision you’ve reached.