Friday, February 29, 2008

Liturgical mood lighting?

This morning David and I walked into church and discovered that it was lit only by candles and the beginnings of daylight coming in through the stained glass windows. I wondered if Father was trying something new. When I remembered I had our camera in my purse I tried to get a picture but they all came out blurry (anyone know how to get crisp, flashless pictures without a tripod?).

While we knelt to pray before Mass I found it difficult to concentrate. The strangeness of being in a quiet, dark church full of burning candles (there must have been 16 on the floor along the center aisle, one in each of the 16 windows, and 20 more around the altar) unsettled my spirit - in a good way. This is really cool, I thought; I have to blog about this! I reflected on the early Church - when they gathered to worship secretly in the catacombs, I'm sure candlelight and oil lamps were their sole source of illumination. Here we were, 2000 years later, relying on the same basic resources to aid our communal liturgy.

As Mass began Father explained: we had no electricity (how unromantic a reason!). So he had improvised, with great results... until the first reading. The reader held a candle over the lectionary and stumbled over the first few lines. I think the candle dripped wax on the book, because he looked startled. He set that candle aside and pulled one of the big ones off of its stand. He tried reading by that, but the words still weren't clear for him and then the candle put itself out. (We tried not to laugh!) Father took over at that point; "my eyes are better," he said.

When Father came out into the aisle to deliver his homily, the lights came on. His whole message was based on the symbol of candlelight, one of the treasures of our faith. Although our new state of (electric) illumination made the metaphor less poignant, I appreciated what Father said about two different words for light in Italian: luce and chiaro. Luce, he said, describes general light, such as lamplight. Chiaro is used for candlelight, and indicates "that which dispels darkness." The world is beautiful but dark, Father reflected, because the sin of man casts a pall over God's creation. We are called to dispel that darkness with the light of Christ.

This morning's experience makes me all the more eager for the Easter Vigil, my favorite Mass of the year. I look forward to the dark church full of people, the Paschal Candle being lit to symbolize Christ's resurrection, and the spread of light as that flame is shared among all present.

I leave you with the lyrics of a lovely song by Chris Rice, called "Go Light Your World":

There is a candle in every soul
Some brightly burning, some dark and cold
There is a Spirit who brings a fire
Ignites a candle and makes His home

So carry your candle, run to the darkness
Seek out the hopeless, confused and torn
Hold out your candle for all to see it
Take your candle, and go light your world
Take your candle, and go light your world

Frustrated brother, see how he's tried to
Light his own candle some other way
See now your sister, she's been robbed and lied to
Still holds a candle without a flame

So carry your candle, run to the darkness
Seek out the lonely, the tired and worn
Hold out your candle for all to see it
Take your candle, and go light your world
Take your candle, and go light your world

Cause we are a family whose hearts are blazing
So let's raise our candles and light up the sky
Praying to our Father, in the name of Jesus
Make us a beacon in darkest times

So carry your candle, run to the darkness
Seek out the helpless, deceived and poor
Hold out your candle for all to see it
Take your candle, and go light your world
Carry your candle, run to the darkness
Seek out the hopeless, confused and torn
Hold out your candle for all to see it
Take your candle, and go light your world
Take your candle, and go light your world

©1993 BMG Songs,, Inc. (Admin. by Brentwood Benson Publishing, Inc.)/ASCAP

Photo credit: Comrade_S

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Ego resuscitation

David has Sicilian heritage. Sometimes he uses his hands to illustrate what he is saying. An example:

This is David's ego:

This is David's ego dying because Frances said something really thoughtless to him:

Not pictured
: the pretend CPR Frances performed on David's hand (aka, "ego") to bring it back to life

What ensued: much laughter and forgiveness

How is God Calling You Today?

Frances talking on her cell phone under a desk
As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm reading St. Teresa of Avila's Interior Castle. On page 24, I came across this:

This Lord of ours is so anxious that we should desire Him and strive after His companionship that He calls us ceaselessly, time after time, to approach Him. ... His appeals come through the conversations of good people, or from sermons, or through the reading of good books. ... Or they come through sicknesses and trials, or by means of truths which God teaches us at times when we are engaged in prayer; however feeble such prayers may be, God values them highly.
How is God calling you today? This question reminds me of an awesome experience I had soon after David and I met online and began pursuing a friendship. I had the good fortune to travel to Franciscan University of Steubenville with my youth and young adult prayer community, Lion of Judah. We attended a Festival of Praise with phenomenal praise and worship music and convicting messages of God's goodness, and then we walked over to the chapel to be prayed over by prayer teams. When my turn came at last, I set my bag and coat down at the front of the first pew and approached a team in the sanctuary. They welcomed me, asked me questions about my spiritual needs and desires, and began to pray over me. I felt full of joy and my awareness of God's presence deepened. And then I heard it - my cell phone ringing. I was absolutely certain I had turned my phone completely off, but there it was again - the general purpose ring tone I had chosen for callers not in my contacts. Some how, I knew it was God calling me (I didn't have his phone number!), letting me know that He was fully in control of my life and blessing me in every way. His "call" that night confirmed that I was walking in the ways of the Lord and that I should continue serving the Church in my work and my ministry, living my life as a faithful disciple of Christ, and opening my heart to the possibilities of a courtship with David. In some sense, God just called to say He loved me. I'm so grateful my ears were open to hear Him.

PS After the prayer experience, I checked my phone - it was definitely off.

PSS David likes to say we "dial God" with the sign of the cross. :)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Lenten reading

On February 18th I decided to make a big sacrifice and adopt a new discipline for Lent. I realized that I had not done enough spiritually to make the most of this holy season - I felt like a slacker in my pursuit of virtue and a deeper relationship with God. So I returned a book to the library and started reading a different one.

Doesn't sound like much, does it? Consider this: at Carrie's recommendation, I had checked Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life out from the library. Through stories, facts, and figures, Barbara Kingsolver (of Poison Wood Bible fame) and her husband and daughter compel readers to consider eating local - buying, preparing, and enjoying locally-produced foods as they come in season. From the first page I was hooked, and in the course of four chapters I fell head-over-heels in love with this book, which is compelling in content and magnificent in style. I dare say it will forever have a place among my favorites: the Bible and St. Therese of Lisieux's Story of a Soul. In emails and conversations I began praising AVM and encouraging others to explore the bounty of our local Farmer's Markets. I even took my sister with me to the big one and loaded up on apples, squash, and sweet potatoes.

It soon became apparent to me that I was spending so much time and energy reading and thinking about the vegetannual that I didn't want to make good on my Lenten goal to engage in spiritual reading. Although Kingsolver doesn't tackle a theological perspective on eating habits (at least not in the first quarter of the book), her writing doesn't do anything detrimental to my Catholic Christian formation. It's just that I preferred reading AVM to reading about prayer and holiness. That had to change.

So I returned the book to the library and picked up David's tagged and written-in copy of St. Teresa of Avila's Interior Castle. I'm only in the first mansion, so I'll leave my thoughts on the book for future posts. I will say that the discipline of reading and meditating on Teresa's thoughts and examples has put me in the right frame of mind for Lent. I find that my spiritual eyes are more open to God's presence and blessings in my life, and my heart is more ready to respond to opportunities to love and serve.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Amaryllis Project

This weekend, while my sister Beth visited from Virginia (that's her in the photo), our amaryllis sent up their first leaves. We were amazed by their rapid growth, and Beth took it upon herself to record how much higher they reached every few hours. I remember my high school trigonometry teacher, Mrs. Hutchison, bringing an amaryllis into the classroom so we could track its development on a graph and see if the curve was exponential. It wasn't, but the project was memorable - it made abstract math tangible.

This project is more of the gardening/horticulturist type. Last summer our parish pastor got transferred to another parish with a rectory, so he enlisted David and I in helping him clear unneeded items out of his apartment. We inherited several bags of frozen food, pantry goods, and household items. David also said yes to Father's four amaryllis plants with their long leaves (the blossoms having long ago withered). I was not so enthused about the green monsters taking over my little porch. However, like Father, I have a soft spot in my heart for plants. So I researched amaryllis cultivation and followed the recommendations: let them go all summer, soaking up the rays and recharging their bulbs. Then trim the leaves, remove the bulbs to a dark, dry place (I put them in a shoebox on a shelf), and let them lie dormant for at least 8 weeks - unfortunately, I didn't do this in time for a Christmas bloom, so I decided to try for Easter. Take the bulbs out and replant them. Pray they grow and bloom (my addition).

To my delight, three of the amaryllis are making their way heavenward. I'm afraid the one with the fewest roots won't make it. We'll share pictures if everything goes well - with you and with Father. We hope he'll be pleased.

If you've grown amaryllis before, we'd appreciate your suggestions in the comments!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Thank you, Lord, for priests

Yeah! I have time to write a post!

Often I am awed by the traditional manner of new and young priests. The Masses these devoted men offer are detailed according to the rubric and rich in the variety of canonical and liturgical treasures. The young men are devoted to focusing attention on the sacrifice of praise offered up to the Lord. Witnessing this younger generation of holy men offers me an assurance of continuity and tradition, and in opening myself up to welcome new additions to our family (His will be done) this continuity confirms my desire to have our children raised in the Catholic faith.

Reflecting on the readings today, I can see how the priests' redirection is rooted in Scripture:
First reading: Obey the Lord, turn away from sin and love thy neighbor.
Responsorial: To the upright I will show the saving power of God.
Gospel: Focus on humility and obedience to the Law and seek not to exalt yourself.

These young priests have been bold in their homilies to educate the faithful about sin and the most valuable of all virtues, love. They have declared the glory of the Lord without compromise and with zeal that sends me home thanking the Lord for their fervor. Moreover, they have instructed the congregations before them to focus on the Lord first and educated us on what repentance truly means. For my wife and I, it is good.

While embracing this redirection, my thoughts linger on the priests I’ve benefited from in the last few decades. Specifically, this morning, we were blessed to have an older priest celebrate Mass. By his actions, it was obvious that he was familiar with the surroundings but not familiar with the routine of the young pastor’s instruction to those serving. This older holy man did not get flustered when he began reading a collect from Advent. He simply stopped, smiled, found the correct page, and continued.

This man’s love of the Lord and love for us truly impressed me today. The inviting flow of his practiced gestures, the calm, caressing words of prayer, the constant offer of being his “friends,” the gentle, yet confident way he held the Blessed Sacrament, and, most of all, his genuine smile revived a recognition of the Lord’s presence at daily Mass.

Mind you, the priest added a few words and the rubric may not been observed to the letter. While I do not advocate for deviation from the rubric, I appreciated the “fatherly way” of this older priest. I enjoy the unhurried, patient, and meek way he offered the Mass.

I am not well versed in the reasons why the Second Vatican Council chose to revise the old form of the Mass. I know that the Novus Ordo is valid, but I also know that some priests have taken unnecessary liberties and have abused this form of the Mass. I know that when I go to a Novus Ordo Mass in a different language my feeling of solidarity with all present is subdued. I long for the unifying tradition of early forms of the Mass, and I am hopeful and excited for the Extraordinary form of the Mass, soon to be celebrated here in the Diocese of Charlotte. I look forward to experiencing the historical, traditional, and literal “catholic” nature of the Latin Mass.

I know these young priests are also eager to bring the Extraordinary form of the Mass to the people. They will offer it with precision and devotion. I do hope that the older generation will also embrace the Latin Mass again and bring to it their experience and love that the Lord has cultivated in their heart during their lives which have been spent before the altar.

Bottom line: I am grateful for the new generation of priests who are redirecting us to the correct rubrics of the Mass. I am also very grateful for the experience and the cultivated love the older generation still offers. As a Catholic, I look forward to our younger priests developing their experience and receiving God's love while I watch the older priests embrace a more traditional liturgical culture. Yeah, things are looking good.

Photo credit: Micropixel's

Monday, February 18, 2008

Deo Gratias: Wedding Bands

This is the inaugural post of a "special feature" here at Loving and Serving: Deo Gratias. In an effort to cultivate an "attitude of gratitude," I would like to challenge myself to post often about things for which I am truly grateful. Because God is the source of all good things, the thanks go to Him. Hence Deo Gratias, which, in Latin, means "thanks be to God."

This phrase has enriched my spiritual journey so much over the years that, when David and I decided to have our wedding bands engraved, I chose it as my phrase for David. I wanted the message in his ring to remind David that, in good times and bad, 1) I thank God for my husband, and 2) I encourage him to thank God for everything. David approved of the message and, when I gave him the option of having it inscribed in Latin or English, he opted for Latin.

David chose the perfect phrase for the inside of my wedding band: "Peace be with you". Knowing that my husband is praying for God's peace to be manifest in my life brings me great comfort. Sometimes, when I'm feeling anxious, I take off my ring and read the phrase again. Jesus' words then stir in my heart:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. John 14:27, NAB
Some time ago, on a day I was feeling quite upset about not being pregnant, God manifested Himself with this phrase - straight out of the mouth of a babe. Friends of ours were sitting one pew in front of us at Mass, and their toddler was a bundle of energy, moving constantly and making little noises (but no words) from time to time. At the sign of peace, he reached out his little hand, looked right into my eyes, and said, clear as day, "Peace be with you." My heart overflowed with God's message of love and peace. I am still grateful for that experience.

Deo Gratias!

Photo credit (not our actual rings): John & Mel Kots

What to Label?

My mom got me this DYMO labelmaker for Christmas and I recently purchased more rechargeable batteries to power it. Now that I'm all ready to label away, I don't know what to label! I'd appreciate anyone's suggestions on how to use this handy organizational tool well.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Free Rice Vocab Builder

I've always enjoyed building my vocabulary. In high school I made flash cards to run through during lunch period. In college I became a hardcore Boggle player. Now I play FreeRice. It's a neat premise: the nonprofit website provides a vocabulary building "game" and uses advertising fees to donate rice to hungry people (via the United Nations World Food Program). The more words you match correctly, the more you're contributing to end hunger in our world.

NFP Update

This past week has been eventful for us regarding Natural Family Planning. In brief: I stopped charting and I went to see the closest NFP-only doctor. If you're interested, read on.

On February 4th, I wrote this in an email to a friend:

After David and I got married (six months ago today), I started looking for an ob/gyn to care for me - for annual exams and for pregnancy and delivery. I had only moved to Charlotte a year prior and was in overall good health - I know I should have started looking sooner, but I didn't. :P Anyway, I started with One More Soul to find the NFP-only doctors in the area. There are three in adjacent counties, but the closest one is a 40+ minute drive each way. So I started asking around (mostly the moms of huge Catholic families) for pro-life doctor recommendations. Then I checked with my insurance provider to see which ones would take my insurance.

In the end, my first visit to my office of choice (15 minute drive) was prompted by our miscarriage at 4.5 weeks (in November 07). The reputable pro-life doctor had a full schedule, so I saw the new lady doctor. She was very nice. I know nothing of her feelings on abortion or natural delivery.

Last Thursday morning David was helping the priest clean up after Mass and took that opportunity to ask Father an ethical question. David was uncertain of his culpability in witnessing a tubal ligation after a cesarean delivery during his nursing clinical (that's a whole other story). I joined them in the sacristy and listened while the conversation turned to end-of-life care. In the midst of other advice, Father insisted I go to see the NFP-only doctor 40 minutes away for prenatal care.

Now, I absolutely trust this priest and his advice. But my heart is still torn - that is such a long way to drive for appointments, especially when the appointments come every month or more often during pregnancy. I can take that time off from work, yes, but it's really a matter of the gas I'd use driving back and forth. As an environmentally-conscious Catholic striving to be a good steward of God's gifts, I try to drive as little as possible. So what am I to do?

When I got home from work that evening I discussed the email with David and his response was definitive: "there's no question - you WILL go to the NFP doctor." I subsequently made an appointment (yay for obedience!).

Then I received some encouragement and advice from the NFP coordinator in the Diocese of Camden (my old haunt) and wrote the following on Feb. 11:

I put "Fertility Cycles and Nutrition" on hold here at the library and I've been on a mission to "fatten up" since October, but I've been wrestling with exactly how to go about that. I LOVE all manner of sweets, but I realize that those empty calories are not ideal for my health or the health of a future baby. So I need to eat more nutritious food in addition to my brownies and Dove. I had a mini panic attack a couple weeks ago when I read up on the caffeine-miscarriage connections. I am okay with not drinking coffee or soda (I drank very little of them anyway), but I am concerned about how much I should limit my chocolate intake. The articles (and my husband, when I shared my fears with him) encouraged chocolate-lovers not to go cold turkey lest they stress out about that change (stress being similarly harmful to developing fetuses). In the end, I'm continuing to eat and drink chocolate in moderation.

I think stress is the biggest problem for me right now. I get so anxious over whether or not I'm pregnant each month ("or will ever be ever again" in my more melodramatic moments) that I'm sure I cause all kinds of unhelpful hormones/chemicals to course through my veins. Stopping my pursuit of my master's degree was definitely the right choice. I am striving to make good choices with my daily activities to minimize stress.

But the biggest breakthrough came this weekend. An engaged friend shared with me her fiance's discernment that they not learn/use NFP at the beginning of their marriage. Recognizing that she tends to "overthink" everything (and considering that they are fully open to life from the get-go), they want to limit their fertility knowledge as they begin their marriage. In response, I told her the only argument I could think of against that is that having an NFP charting baseline helps in the unfortunate circumstance that one would NEED to use it (post-miscarriage or during other medical crises). Later, I shared with David our friends' deliberations and conclusion and he began to pray about our charting, too. In the end, he highly encouraged me to stop charting altogether.

And so I did. And I already feel more free. Although I will continue to have a general idea of my fertility based on unavoidable mucus signs and casual calendar references, I will not have to worry constantly about which days are ideal for conception and how close I am to being late.

Some might argue that we should continue charting for the sake of "trying" for pregnancy, but that would most likely cause detrimental stress for me. I reflected on our current state of affairs in another email:

I wouldn't classify David and I as having a fertility problem - I actually think God is working everything out for the best. If we conceive this month and carry full term, the baby would be born in November, just as David completes his last nursing school course. It would have been a huge challenge for David to accomplish all that studying and test-taking while caring for me and a newborn. If God wants to wait a couple more months, until David has passed the NCLEX, that's okay. God is awesome.

Also, my charts reveal my cycles to be incredibly regular. I wonder about progesterone deficiency sometimes, since it is a common cause of miscarriage, but my regular 14-day luteal phase and the very early occurrence of our miscarriage indicate normal levels (the doctor said that miscarriages at 8-10 weeks sometimes indicate inadequate progesterone levels).

My visit to the NFP doctor yesterday left me with mixed feelings. I loved signing the consent form that included a whole paragraph explaining why they will not prescribe contraceptives or recommend anything against their pro-life beliefs (such as abortion or in-vitro fertilization). The Ten Commandments plaque and Mary & Jesus statue (a pro-life award) in their waiting room cabinet made me smile. The nurse and other staff members were caring and helpful. The doctor, however, was much like other doctors in his desire to treat problems. I came to him wanting to discuss possibilities for the future and steps I can take to optimize my fertility naturally; he strove to define my concerns as problems for which he could prescribe medications (including progesterone supplements). No hard feelings, but I wish primary care doctors could spend more of their time and energy helping people maintain and promote wellness through natural means.

Responses to everything I've shared above are welcome. And if you wonder why in the world I've been so open about this very personal topic, well, I just pray that God will use what I've shared to help or encourage someone someday.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Time Travel Question

I'm curious...if you could travel anywhere in time, where would you go? Why?

I recently came across a particularly thorough version of this prompt in Serve God, Save the Planet by J. Matthew Sleeth, MD. I share his words with you now and invite your response:

"I have a time machine. It will take you anywhere in time you choose to go. Wherever you go, you will be safe. You will speak whatever language you need to and will have whatever money or currency you need. You will be gone for one month. Wherever you go, you may choose the specific socio-economic group and situation you wish to live in. However, if the place you choose has a system of injustice, you are not allowed to make changes. When the time machine returns you to the present, the only things you can bring back are your memories."

Friday, February 8, 2008

Bye bye BPA

I've been thinking about getting on the "let's go BPA-free" bandwagon for about a month now, but all the articles I read on the subject were of the "some researchers/consumers think this is a concern, others do not" variety. Well, today I heard about this press release in which "Environmental Health Groups Call for Immediate Moratorium on Bisphenol A in Baby Bottles, Food and Beverage Containers."
Here's the basic info: bisphenol A (BPA), a synthetic sex hormone that mimics estrogen, is used to make hard polycarbonate plastic. Ninety-five percent of all baby bottles on the market are made with BPA. Other food and beverage containers, particularly cans, also contain BPA.

I'm convinced that this issue is worth our attention - and our action. Prompted by this Seventh Generation newsletter article, I got rid of my polycarbonate (plastic recycling symbol #7) water bottles (fortuitously, David lost his at the hospital this week). Here's a key quote:

"To be safe, environmental advocates suggest simply avoiding #7 plastics altogether and opting for safer choices for food and beverage storage. These better options include polypropylene (#5 PP), high density polyethylene (#2 HDPE), and low density polyethylene (#4 LDPE). No evidence has been found to suggest that these plastics leach toxic materials. Evidence exists to suggest that plastic water and other bottles made from plastic type #1 PETE may leach certain toxic compounds into the liquids they hold, especially over time and with repeated use."

Now we're considering some plastic alternatives, such as the stainless steel bottle pictured above.

I am absolutely committed to BPA-free products (bottles, pacifiers, teethers, etc.) for the babies we hope God will bless us with. Perhaps I'll start with this BPA-free bottle sampler offered by the Soft Landing Baby Blog (if we even need bottles - how many should a plans-to-breastfeed-only expectant mom have on hand?). I read all of Soft Landing's news about nontoxic products for little ones.

If you're looking to research the BPA issue further, I recommend you go to Baby's Toxic Bottle for a page full of links.

I'm also going to be reading more about phthalates, another hormone-mimicking chemical additive in baby products (shampoo, lotion, soap, etc.) with suspicious effects.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

NFP Evangelization

At Mass this Sunday David and I sat behind a beautiful, large family. The mom had a new baby and I counted eight other children with her. In observing them in the past, I've admired the second oldest daughter's spirit of reverence. She seems to balance tending to her younger siblings' needs and remaining focused on the Mass very well.

After Mass, our pastor offered the blessing of throats, as is the custom on St. Blaise's day. Due to the large number of parishioners waiting in line, David and I chose to stay in the pew and say our after-Mass prayers. The mother of the large family noticed us and introduced herself and her husband to us. Then she introduced us to her two-month-old daughter (her 11th child) and another young mother standing in the aisle.

Here's the best part: Mom-of-Many proceeded to encourage Young Mother to learn about Natural Family Planning. She took a bag full of Couple to Couple League brochures and other materials (does she carry them around in her diaper bag?) and handed them to Young Mother, explaining that she could contact an NFP teaching couple for further instruction. Young Mother gladly accepted the materials and said she had heard about NFP from a friend and was curious. Mom-of-Many turned to David and I and said she was sure we were familiar with NFP. While I stood silently nodding my head (I was awestruck at this awesome moment of evangelization), David affirmed our love of NFP.

I want to be that kind of Catholic - the kind that demonstrates in word and lifestyle the joy of following the Church's life-giving teachings.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Advice to a Newly Engaged Catholic

A friend of mine recently shared news of her engagement and requested my advice, which I now offer here in case it's useful to someone else:

Tip 1: Take advantage of all marriage-prep opportunities offered by your parish, diocese, and friends. David and I attended both the diocesan Marriage Prep (Pre-Cana) Workshop (a day of talks and small group sharing) and an Engaged Encounter weekend. Of the two, we found EE so much more Christ-centered and relationship-enriching, but both were helpful in spurring our conversation on important topics. Meet with your priest several times, especially to do the FOCCUS inventory and discuss the results. And look for times you and your fiance can get together (maybe over meals) with Catholic couples you admire and ask them all kinds of questions. Learn from their experiences! Be inspired by their example! Oh, and definitely sign up for NFP (Natural Family Planning) classes. Set aside time to study the materials and, three or four months before the wedding day, start charting your signs.

Tip 2: Maintain or develop relationships with people who can hold you accountable to your standards for chastity. Engagement is a beautiful time of increased intimacy, and it can be a big challenge not to get ahead of yourselves. I recommend surrounding yourself with positive influences and not spending too much time alone together. When you make mistakes, be honest with one another, go to confession, and begin again.

Tip 3: Declare a certain day of the week "no wedding planning" day and stick to it. Don't let the planning dominate your conversations or time together. Work on building up your relationship and preparing (mentally and spiritually) for the challenges and blessings of marriage.

Tip 4: Pray and read good books. Pray often, as individuals and as a couple, for your engagement and marriage to bring glory to God. Seek His guidance for everything, from the grand picture to the details. Read encouraging books to help you prepare for a godly marriage. I wish I had great books to recommend - the two I had were not good for me. If you haven't explored the Theology of the Body, it's a must - there are several books and CD sets out there, take your pick. Every time David and I delve into Theology of the Body it bears fruit in our relationship.