Intimate Preparations #ValentinesDay

candlelightSmallFebruary is the month of Valentine’s Day, so below is a reprint of an article I originally wrote for Catholic Mom and Amazing Catechists years ago.

“And so I take (my wife) not for any lustful motive, but I do it in singleness of heart. Be kind enough to…bring us to old age together.” Tobit 8:7

“..Now, gird up your loins and arise…”  Jer: 1:17

Which scripture verse more accurately describes how a couple should prepare for the conjugal embrace?   Praying for a singleness of heart, without lustful motive…or girding up one’s loins for “war”?

Yet many couples prepare for intimacy by “girding up their loins:” wearing condoms, inserting diaphragms, taking a pill, putting on a patch, having an IUD inserted, undergoing an operation. It seems to me that these couples are preparing more for “war” than for the marital embrace, “protecting” themselves against unwanted pregnancy, “protecting” themselves against their spouse’s fertility.

Compare that to the couples who do not use contraceptives.  They are generous in opening their marriage to children, and when necessary, they use Natural Family Planning and abstain in the fertile time.  They’re not girding up their loins; they’re not “protecting” each other from an unwanted pregnancy.  When they give of themselves in the marital act, it is a total gift, not a partial one.

The question is: How do you prepare for intimacy?

Some might answer, “We watch porn.”  Others may say, “I make sure my diaphragm is in place,” or “We keep a packet of condoms by the bed.”

And yet…are these really appropriate ways for a couple to prepare for the most intimate act between husband and wife?

Obviously not.

So how can a couple prepare? Here is a short list of helpful ways:

1. Pray Together

Marital prayer is an ideal way to prepare for intimacy. When marital prayer is frequent, praying before relations becomes a logical extension.  The conjugal embrace is itself a prayer.  Let’s review what makes this act so holy and meaningful.  In the marital embrace, with their bodies, husband and wife renew their wedding vows.  Becoming one with our beloved spouse is the ultimate spiritual, physical and emotional experience. We become one flesh…so much so that sometimes, nine months later, we must give the representation of that oneness a name.

2. Throw Away the Contraception

No, I’m not asking couples to have as many children as possible.  But what I am saying is that for the conjugal embrace to be honest and life-giving, it must be free, total, faithful and fruitful.  Natural Family Planning allows a couple to love each other as God loves: freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully.  NFP couples chart the wife’s fertility signs and, if avoiding pregnancy, abstain in the fertile time. They are not using devices; they are giving themselves fully and they are open to children with each and every act of marital relations.  See my previous post on the Theology of the Body in a Nutshell.  For more information on NFP, check out my previous post on NFP.

3. Healthy Relationship

I know a few couples who fight constantly. These same couples brag that they have a great sex life.  Well, they may have a lot of “good feelings” but when a couple is not getting along in their day-to-day life, sex, even ‘good’ sex, is not going to fix that.  What about the husband who treats his wife in a condescending, critical manner, then expects her to be ready and willing to engage in the marital embrace…or a wife who constantly nags her husband, then wants him to be affectionate to her?  Communicate with one another; treat each other with kindness, respect and love.

4. No Pornography

Some secular marriage counselors recommend that a couple use porn to “spice up their sex life.”  Instead of “enhancing” a marital sex life, viewing sexually explicit videos has the potential of destroying a marriage. Blessed John Paul II said: “…the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much of the person, but that it shows far too little.” Porn trains people to be selfish about their sexuality, not selfless. It teaches them to think about sex as something they take, not something they give. Any behavior that causes a person to be self-centered or selfish is never good for marriage. And…pornography can be highly addictive.  Mary Anne Layden, co-director of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program at the University of PA’s Center for Cognitive Therapy, called porn the “most concerning thing to psychological health that I know of existing today….pornography addicts have a more difficult time recovering from their addiction than cocaine addicts, since coke users can get the drug out of their system, but pornographic images stay in the brain forever.” 

5. Single Candle Light

I enjoy romantic, candlelit dinners with my husband.  Well, why not a candlelit conjugal embrace? In the 15th century, it was common for painters to place one solitary lit candle in their paintings to symbolize the presence of Christ. If you have small children or might fall asleep too quickly afterwards, perhaps you can use an electric candle/light…or set an alarm…but be prudent. A simple, solitary light can bring more symbolism to your intimacy.  And…it can help put you both in the “mood.”

6. Focus on Your Spouse

“Intense love does not measure; it just gives.” This quote from Blessed Mother Teresa is an ideal quote for marriage. Marriage isn’t all about “me.”  It’s about “us.”  What are your spouse’s needs?  Think of his/her needs in all facets of your relationship. Intimate ‘memos’ bring a couple closer.  Notes in your spouse’s lunch, special messages left on his workbench or on her desk, daily texts are all ways to intimately connect during the day and let your spouse know you are thinking of him/her.   The important thing is to focus on the other in all things and when it comes time for the marital embrace, this selflessness will follow naturally.

7. We Can Work It Out

When you consider all the day-to-day challenges like children, work, fatigue, family bed, stress and sickness, it’s often a miracle that a couple has the time to engage in marital intimacy at all.  The spontaneity of early marriage eventually gives way to planning for intimacy.  “Family bed?”  Consider another location for the marital embrace.  Mom too tired?  Perhaps Dad can take the kids out to the park while Mom gets a well-deserved rest after dinner. Dad too stressed?  Mom can have a hot relaxing bath waiting for Dad when he arrives home.

Do you want to prepare for the holiest, most satisfying intimate experience possible?  Treat your spouse with respect, pray together, focus on your spouse, don’t use porn and be creative in finding time for intimacy.

I’ve made the Kindle edition of my book, Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship only .99 for the entire month of February. To download your copy, click here.

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An Open Book February 2019 #openbook

An Open Book 800W

I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book. Here’s what I’ve been reading for the past month:

 

place called sat

A Place Called Saturday by Mary Astor

Synopsis: In 1968, when abortion was still a matter of controversy, Mary Astor wrote this heartwarming story of Cora, who was raped by a young, unknown assailant and becomes pregnant. Go with Cora as she faces the obstacles that will affect her life, her husband’s, and that of her unborn child. (from the inside flap)

My review:  This has been on my book shelf for a while and I listed it as one of my “To Read” books several months ago.  I finally picked it up and when I did, I couldn’t stop.  It’s the late 60’s. Cora is a young married woman. She and her husband have been trying to conceive for a couple of years. One hot summer afternoon, she is raped and a few months later she discovers she is pregnant.  She realizes that the baby is likely the product of the rape, but she refuses to consider abortion, which at the time many doctors would perform in the case of rape.  This makes the relationship with her husband difficult because he doesn’t think he can raise his wife’s rapist’s child.  Cora reminds him that the child is 50% hers. The author, Mary Astor, knows the topic of abortion well because she had at least two abortions in her early career (even if an actress was married, she would be pressured into having an abortion because of career advancement).  Astor later became Catholic and sincerely regretted her abortions.  I suspect that Astor created Cora partly to repent her two abortions.  The writing is a bit stilted at times, but overall, a great read. 4.5 out of 5.

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Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship

On Sale on Kindle for only .99!

Synopsis: Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship is a celebration of faith and enduring love. This compilation contains 12 courtship/dating stories which will inspire, captivate and entertain readers. Some of the stories include: a widow with eight children meets a widower with six children; a man asks his live-in girlfriend “what if we stopped having sex,” and is greeted with tears of joy; an atheist falls in love with her Catholic Prince Charming; a woman prays to God for a husband and years later finds herself falling in love with a seminarian; a sailor prays a novena to marry the right girl. What these and all the stories illustrate is that God is the ideal matchmaker.

My review: This is a book I edited and published eight years ago with the help of my friend, Kathy.  It’s a beautiful collection of courtship stories and is only .99 on Kindle (the entire month of February.)

tears in a bottle

Tears in a Bottle by Sylvia Bambola

Synopsis: Becky Taylor, a young woman burdened by great expectations, is lying on a cold recovery table in an abortion clinic when she hears a man’s voice, then gunshots. She holds her breath and lies perfectly still behind the curtain. When the gunman is finished, Becky is the only one left alive in the clinic. This act brings together two strangers who both seek answers to life’s most wrenching questions, mainly: Are God’s love and mercy big enough for every sin? The answer transforms multiple lives.

My review: This is an excellent pro-life novel (although at least one of the antagonists is rather one-dimensional (womanizing and alcoholic) with a compelling story and believable story line, especially in 2019. The characters are generic Christian (not Catholic). I bought this book 20 years ago at a pro-life conference. I’ve read it numerous times and read it again recently. It’s surprising that this book was originally written 20 years ago. It is especially pertinent in light of the State of New York’s recent decision to allow abortion up to the moment of birth.  Disturbing, sad and enlightening, this story is a must-read for those in the pro-life movement. Highly recommend! 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship Only .99 #bargain

Come My Beloved web

To celebrate Valentine’s Day, for the entire month of February, Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship is on sale on Kindle for only .99!

Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship is a celebration of faith and enduring love. This compilation contains 12 courtship/dating stories which will inspire, captivate and entertain readers. Some of the stories include: a widow with eight children meets a widower with six children; a man asks his live-in girlfriend “what if we stopped having sex,” and is greeted with tears of joy; an atheist falls in love with her Catholic Prince Charming; a woman prays to God for a husband and years later finds herself falling in love with a seminarian; a sailor prays a novena to marry the right girl. What these and all the stories illustrate is that God is the ideal matchmaker.

Read excerpts here (scroll down to the bottom of the page).

Reviews:

Come My Beloved: Inspiring Stories of Catholic Courtship is a Song of Songs, a book of praise, a treasure-house of faith and romance par excellence!  This truly beautiful collection of Catholic courtship stories is a must-read for anyone discerning a vocation, especially the call to marriage; and for those courting, engaged, already married, or widowed. What a great gift to Holy Mother Church, and a powerful witness that God does make marriages in heaven.  Lisa Mladinich, author, Be An Amazing Catechist: Inspire the Faith of Children, and True Radiance, Founder, Amazing Catechists

Whether you’re courting, engaged to be married, newlyweds, or celebrating your jubilee years together, this terrific resource offers something for anyone looking to grow closer to God and to one another in a loving relationship.  Lisa Hendey, author, The Handbook for Catholic Moms,  The Grace of Yes, Founder and editor, Catholic Mom

Fabulous book that I can’t wait to recommend to all my single and married friends. You truly created a gift for this generation! Dawn Marie Roeder, author It Doesn’t End Here

Pick up a Kindle edition of Come My Beloved for only .99!

FQP News!

New Logo smallMore FQP projects are on the horizon!

Final Julia's Gifts Front rev

Julia’s Gifts is being narrated as an audio-book and should be completed by the end of summer.

Julia’s Gifts is also being translated into Italian and should be available in paperback and ebook by the middle of July.

Stealing Jenny

Stealing Jenny is being translated into Spanish and will be available via paperback and ebook by the end of the summer.  (It’s already available in English and Portuguese. Special thanks to the remarkable and easy-to-work-with translator,  Ramon Vitor da Costa)

Stealing Jenny is also being translated into Italian and will be available via paperback and ebook by the end of the summer.

 

 

Author Publishes Eighth Book, Julia’s Gifts, WW1 Romance

From Inside Ottawa Valley and Arnprior Chronicle-Guide

“No man has tasted the full flavour of life until he has known poverty, love and war.” O. Henry’s quote could well be the theme of local author, Ellen Gable Hrkach’s, eighth book, Julia’s Gifts, a First World War romance.

One hundred years ago, the world was at war. It was supposed to be the “war to end all wars.” However, amid the carnage of the First World War, soldiers, nurses and other volunteers discovered love. Hrkach, who writes under her maiden name (Gable), says that creating characters and stories can be “rewarding, but it’s also challenging work, especially if it entails historical research.”

Julia’s Gifts is the first of three books planned for a series entitled Great War Great Love. The setting for this novel is 1917-18, France. The protagonist is Julia Murphy who, as a young girl in Philadelphia, began buying Christmas gifts for her future spouse, a man whose name she doesn’t yet know, a man she calls her beloved. Soon after the United States enters the Great War, Julia impulsively volunteers as a medical-aid worker, with no experience or training. During the course of the novel, the reader follows Julia from Philadelphia to war-torn France as she transitions from unworldly young woman to compassionate volunteer.

Hrkach has always been fascinated with history. “This particular war piqued my interest, especially since it’s been one hundred years since it took place.” In the story, Julia is American and her love interest, Peter, is Canadian. “I am American and my husband is Canadian. I thought it might be fun exploring that relationship with fictional characters.” The novel also includes beautiful sonnets written by Peter (but actually written by the author’s husband, James Hrkach).
The second in the Great War Great Love series, Charlotte’s Honor, will be released in late 2018, and the third, Ella’s Promise, will be released in 2019.

Originally from the Philadelphia area, Hrkach is now a dual citizen, having received her Canadian citizenship in 2014.

The author began writing Christian fiction as a hobby in 2002 when her five sons were small boys. The part-time hobby eventually turned into a full-time career of writing, editing, book coaching and publishing.

Reviews and Awards

Reviews for Julia’s Gifts have been overwhelmingly positive. In her review, award-winning author Therese Heckenkamp, says that this novel is a, “touching story of faith and devotion that is sure to leave a lasting impression.” Jean Heimann, author of Fatima: The Apparition that Changed the World, gave Julia’s Gifts high praise: “Stunning love story amid World War 1 … outstanding and unforgettable book!”

“This book is filled with fascinating historical detail and a reminder that love never fails and that miracles — great and small — happen all around us,” says Carolyn Astfalk, award-winning author.

In 2015, Hrkach’s fifth book, A Subtle Grace, was a finalist in the IAN Book Awards in both the romance and historical categories. In 2010, Hrkach’s second book, In Name Only, won the IPPY Gold Medal in Religious Fiction. All of her books are available on Amazon on Kindle and in paperback. Since 2009, the author’s books have been collectively downloaded over 600,000 times on Kindle.

Upcoming Book Signings

The author will be signing and selling books at the following events during the next six weeks:

Friday, Nov. 10: The Ninth Annual Ladies’ Shopping Night, St. John Chrysostom Parish Hall, Arnprior, Ontario, from 4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 18: CWL Bake Sale and Bazaar, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish Hall, Braeside, Ont. from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 17: Christmas Shopping Adventure, 164 Argyle Street South, Renfrew, Ontario from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 25: One of a Kind Christmas Craft, Bake and Business Sale, Nick Smith Centre, Arnprior, Ont. from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Saturday, December 2: Gifts of Light, Christmas Gifts and Bake Sale, Sponsored by L’Arche Arnprior, Kirkman House Bed and Breakfast, Arnprior, Ont. from 10 a.m. to two p.m.

Julia’s Gifts costs $15 (Canadian) for the print edition and $4.99 for the Kindle edition. It’s available online via Amazon and through the publisher’s website at http://www.fullquiverpublishing.com. More information can be found at the author’s website: http://www.ellengable.com

An Open Book – November 2017 #openbook Launch Day for Julia’s Gifts!

Open Book

Happy Feast of All Saints!!  I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book. Here’s what I’ve been reading:

It’s launch day for my new book, Julia’s Gifts!   It’s now available here on Kindle.  It will be available in paperback within a day or so.

Today begins the Virtual Book Tour for Julia’s Gifts.  See all the stops here at this link.

Julia’s Gifts by Ellen Gable

 

Other books I’ve been reading:

 

Struck By Lightning:  Death, Judgment and Conversion

Dr. Gloria Polo

 

Synopsis from Amazon:  On May 5th, 1995 something extraordinary happened to Dr. Gloria Polo Ortiz, a dentist from Bogota Columbia. She was taking shelter from a storm with her nephew, when both of them were struck by lightning. What happened to her afterwards was a miracle which led to her conversion and a life of abandonment to the will of God. She now tells her story in many different countries around the world, and has the approval of her diocese in Bogota, Colombia, and her spiritual director. Her testimony is an inspiration for all of us, and will increase our faith in Christ Jesus and His Holy Catholic Church.

My review: I’m not sure where I heard about this book, but I decided to order it.  The content was good, although there were a few parts that just didn’t seem right theologically.  And grammatically it definitely needed worked (then again, this is a translation from Dr. Polo’s original Spanish, I believe).  However, it was a good story of how Dr. Polo realized that she was far from being the “good Catholic” she thought she was.  The parts where she discovers the reality of abortion and the IUD she had been using are compelling.  Overall, a good read.

Hail Holy Queen by Scott Hahn

 

Amazon Synopsis: In The Lamb’s Supper, Hahn explored the relationship between the Book of Revelation and the Roman Catholic Mass, deftly clarifying the most subtle of theological points with analogies and anecdotes from everyday life. In Hail, Holy Queen, he employs the same accessible, entertaining style to demonstrate Mary’s essential role in Christianity’s redemptive message.

Most Christians know that the life of Jesus is foreshadowed throughout the Old Testament. Through a close examination of the Bible, as well as the work of both Catholic and Protestant scholars and clergy, Hahn brings to light the small but significant details showing that just as Jesus is the “New Adam,” so Mary is the “New Eve.” He unveils the Marian mystery at the heart of the Book of Revelation and reveals how it is foretold in the very first pages of the Book of Genesis and in the story of King David’s monarchy, which speaks of a privileged place for the mother of the king.

Building on these scriptural and historical foundations, Hahn presents a new look at the Marian doctrines: Her Immaculate Conception, Perpetual Virginity, Assumption, and Coronation. As he guides modern-day readers through passages filled with mysteries and poetry, Hahn helps them rediscover the ancient art and science of reading the Scriptures and gain a more profound understanding of their truthfulness and relevance to faith and the practice of religion in the contemporary world.

My review:  This happened to be on sale for 1.99 on Kindle. Whenever I see one of Scott Hahn’s book on sale, I usually download it immediately.  I’ve just started reading, but if this is anything like Hahn’s other books, I won’t be disappointed.

One Tuesday Morning/Beyond Tuesday Morning

 

Amazon Synopsis:   Based on the tragedy of the Twin Towers … two powerful novels of heroism, loss, and redemption by New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury.

ONE TUESDAY MORNING: The last thing Jake Bryan knew was the sound of the World Trade Center collapsing on top of him and his fellow firefighters. The man in the hospital bed remembers nothing. Not rushing with his teammates up the stairway of the south tower to help trapped victims. Not being blasted from the building. And not the woman sitting by his bedside who says she is his wife. Jamie Bryan will do anything to help her beloved husband regain his memory. But that means helping Jake rediscover the one thing Jamie has never shared with him: his deep faith in God.

BEYOND TUESDAY MORNING: Determined to find meaning in her grief three years after the terrorist attacks on New York City, FDNY widow Jamie Bryan pours her life into volunteer work at a small memorial chapel across from where the Twin Towers once stood. There, unsure and feeling somehow guilty, Jamie opens herself to the possibility of love again. But, in the face of a staggering revelation, only the persistence of a tenacious man, questions from Jamie’s curious daughter, and words from her dead husband’s journal can move Jamie beyond one Tuesday morning … toward life.

My review: I picked up this two-book series for .99 recently.  I finished reading the first, One Tuesday Morning and enjoyed it.  I did, however, find the plot to be unbelievable. It was an enjoyable read nonetheless and Kingsbury creates excellent, well-developed characters.  If you haven’t read any of Kingsbury’s books, this may be a good one to try.

 

 

Julia’s Gifts Virtual Book Tour Links

 

Virtual Book Tour Stops/Links  (Updated)

November 1  (Open Book)   Plot Line and Sinker

November 2   Mary Lou Rosien, Dynamic Women of Faith

November 3   Therese Heckenkamp and Catholic-Fiction.com

November 4  Karen Kelly Boyce

November 5   Karen Kelly Boyce    Christopher Blunt

November 6 Carolyn Astfalk, My Scribbler’s Heart Blog

November 7  Jean Heimann, Catholic Fire

November 8  A.K. Frailey  and   Sarah Reinhard

November 9  Trisha Niermeyer Potter, Prints of Grace    Allison Gingras, Reconciled to You

November 10  Barb Szyszkiewicz, Franciscan Mom

November 11  Plot Line and Sinker  Remembrance Day/ Veterans Day post

November 12  Spiritual Woman   Patrice Fagnant MacArthur

November 13  Mike Seagriff 

November 15  Virginia Pillars and  Theresa Linden

November 16  Lisa Mladinich, Amazing Catechists   and Alexandrina Brant

November 17  Barb Szyszkiewicz    Catholic Mom

November 18 Cathy Gilmore

November 19 Erin McCole Cupp

November 20 Virginia Lieto

November 21 Elena Maria Vidal  Tea at Trianon

November 22  Catholic Media Review and  Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold Miller The Divine Gift of Motherhood

November 23  Leslie Lynch, author