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__from the desk of Johnnette Benkovic
Dear The Apostolate of Hannah’s Tears,
In this letter I’m going to speak to you from my heart about one of the most important subjects in the world – marriage. I’ll share some insights about:
- How to heal your marriage and convert an unbelieving husband
- How to make a good marriage even better
- What to do when your marriage runs into trouble
And I’m going to tell you some details about my own marriage – things that happened when Anthony and I experienced a troubled time.
It’s difficult for me to share about these painful moments. But by the time you’ve finished reading this letter, you’ll see why I did it.
You see, last February I gave a talk about this time in my marriage, a time when it almost broke apart. It’s one of the talks I gave in Malaysia and the response was tremendous. People told me that what Anthony and I learned during this difficult time blessed them greatly. I am sharing it with you now hoping you will find it helpful and encouraging, too.
I tell you about our story with Anthony’s permission. While he was living, he often urged me to share the lessons God had taught us in our life together. He knew that “God works all things for the good for those who have been called according to his purposes” (Romans 8:28), and he often remarked about how powerfully God worked through the insights I am going to share with you. Through the grace of God, Anthony returned to the Church and became a staunch defender of his Catholic faith.
A friend told me that my talk on “How to heal a strained relationship with your husband” is “your best talk on marriage and one of the best you’ve ever given, period.”
I don’t know whether that’s true. But I feel certain you may benefit from it.
I’ll tell you the sad story of my marital difficulties in a moment, after I explain how Satan almost succeeded in blocking my way to Malaysia where I was scheduled to give the marriage talk and several other talks. It’s an incredible story.
You can imagine my shock when I went to the airport last February to board the plane to Malaysia, only to find out that there was an unexpected problem with my passport. An airline employee told me, “You can’t get on this plane. Your passport will expire in April. And Malaysia won’t let you enter the country if your passport is within six months of expiration.”
I was shocked. I had to be on the plane because I was scheduled to give nearly a dozen talks in Malaysia. But the airline absolutely refused to let me board the plane.
I had no choice but to drive to Miami, 300 miles away, so I could get a new passport. I spent the night in Miami and then got in line at the passport office the next morning when it opened. Then, with my new passport in hand, I drove back to the airport and wrangled with the airline for five hours before they’d let me change my ticket.
I told Our Lady, “If you want me in Malaysia, you’ll get me there.” And she did!
Finally, I arrived at the Catholic women’s conference in Eastern Malaysia, the land of the headhunters – literally! After 36 hours of traveling, 22 hours in the air, sleeping on the benches in the Kota Kinabalu airport, I stood before 450 women two hours after I arrived in the diocese of Miri! And I’d do it all again. The eagerness of the participants energized me and filled me with joy.
I gave 8 talks at one conference plus three other talks – 11 talks altogether in just three days, which is one of the most intense schedules I’ve ever had.
The story of Catholicism in Malaysia is awe-inspiring and exhilarating. Through the diligent efforts of the Church many souls have been converted. But much work still needs to be done. Deep in the Malaysian jungles there are still pagan tribes that hold to a wide variety of their ancient customs. Many of the longhouses still display shrunken heads, for example, even among the converted!
The country is predominantly Moslem, but Hindus and Protestants are also active there. The Catholic minority is often hard-pressed by forces hostile to Catholicism.
My Malaysia trip was fruitful. No wonder it was so hard to get there! Your gifts and prayers helped make the outreach to Malaysia possible. And let me thank you for that by offering you the DVDs of my Malaysia conference.
How to help repair a hurting relationship with a husband/spouse
and how to make a good marriage better
Now let me tell you about one of the key talks I gave about marriage.
As I shared with you earlier, Anthony and I hit a really troubled spot in our marriage. Anger, misunderstanding, resentment, and hostility reigned. And, though I didn’t believe it, I was largely responsible.
Even though Anthony and I got married in the Church, we weren’t really practicing the Faith. We weren’t meeting our obligation to attend Sunday Mass, but we did get our three children baptized – just in case. I remembered what the nuns taught me about unbaptized babies going to Limbo, and I didn’t want any of our kids ending up in Limbo.
Things seemed to be going pretty well in our marriage for the first few years. But major difficulties surfaced after I returned to the Catholic faith, which I had been away from for nearly ten years. Here’s how that happened.
When I was changing careers from teaching English to selling insurance, I went to insurance school with a lady who was going through a rough time. She discovered that her husband was cheating on her and had been throughout their entire ten-year marriage.
But, despite the pain she felt over her husband’s betrayal, she knew God had a plan for her, and she knew Jesus was with her. Her confidence really impressed me. I thought back on what the nuns had taught me, and began to yearn for what she had – a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
When I indicated an interest in having what she had, she took me to a prayer meeting and the Holy Spirit ZAPPED me. Words can’t describe how wonderful that was! To say that I was excited about my new-found-faith would be the understatement of the century!!!
My friend couldn’t have been happier that I found the Lord. But my husband had a different reaction.
When I got home from my first weekly prayer meeting, I excitedly told my husband, “Anthony, I had fun in church! Can you believe that? I had FUN in church.” He replied, “Oh, Johnnette. That’s so cute. Honey, does it make you happy?” “Yes!” “Then go back next week.”
For a while Anthony thought it was “cute” that I was going to prayer meetings, attending Mass, and saying the Rosary. As I grew in my faith, however, things began to change. I began to see things differently and us in the world differently as well. I was troubled by certain friendships, parties, and activities. I could see that they posed a temptation that could lead me away from God, not toward Him. And suddenly, my faith no longer seemed so “cute” to Anthony.
One particular evening Anthony and I were going to a Christmas party sponsored by his company. When I said something about how wonderful the Faith is, he pulled over, stopped the car, and said, “Johnnette, I don’t even know who you are anymore. But I do know you’re not the girl I married. And I’m deeply upset and troubled.”
My husband said, “I don’t know if we can stay married anymore”
We shared no words at the party. Nor did we share any words on the way home. As I was brushing my teeth in the bathroom before going to bed, Anthony said, “What I told you in the car on the way to the party, I meant! I don’t know who you are anymore. You’re certainly not the girl I married. And I just don’t know if we can stay married anymore.”
I couldn’t believe I was hearing those words. He was the love of my life. We had three children together. We loved each other dearly – at least I thought we did. I was trying my best to follow Jesus and to be a good Catholic, yet my marriage was crumbling before my eyes. But then, the Lord revealed something to me that was hard for me to take. It promised to be the solution to our problem, but I had much to learn before that would happen.
In the morning things were as cold as they had been the night before.
And the situation got even worse when my husband started mocking and teasing me for practicing my Catholic faith. He would torment me, make fun of me, and ridicule me.
You can’t believe how hard it was to get through that time. I would show him a gesture of love, and he would rebuff me. I would show him a sign of respect, and he would disrespect me. I would make a conciliatory gesture, and he would reject it.
Many times I came home in tears
I used some advanced persuasion tactics to get Anthony to attend a Marriage Encounter weekend. But he stubbornly refused to write me a love letter during the weekend, as couples were encouraged to do. He surprisingly agreed to attend Marriage Encounter circles, however once there he played the devil’s advocate. Many times I came home from those circle meetings in tears.
I just didn’t get it. I was trying to do everything right, but nothing seemed to be working in our marriage. It was one of my most painful trials ever.
In fact, at the worst point in our marriage I thought that everything was the matter with my husband. But I was wrong. As I told the women at the Malaysia conference, the Lord showed me what I needed to do to help my husband become the kind of man God intended him to be. And, through His grace, I did it.
I want you to have the DVD of my talk because this secret can help just about any marriage become better.
Here are a few highlights you’ll get when you hear my talk about marriage:
- What to pray for instead if you’re ever tempted to pray, “Lord, change my husband/wife.”
- How to see a difficult husband/wife through God’s eyes.
- The common mistake wives makes that practically guarantees the husband will stay the same or become even worse – you’ll never want to make this mistake.
- How to evangelize a husband/wife who’s indifferent about God – and how NOT to evangelize him/her.
- How to respond if your husband/wife treats you with disrespect.
- The best time to ask your husband for a credit card – it works almost every time.
- What the wife wants from her husband.
- What the husband wants from his wife.
Let me tell you the happy ending.
At one of the Marriage Encounter circle meetings, Anthony broke down. We were holding hands in prayer, and I could feel his teardrops falling on the back of my hand. He wept for 45 minutes and returned to the Faith. And though our marriage experienced the usual ups and downs most do, we had a grace-filled life together from that moment forward.
When Anthony appeared as my radio guest to discuss his conversion, I asked him what it was that persuaded him to come back to the Church. He asked, “Don’t you know?” I said, “No.” I really didn’t know.
You’ll be amazed when you hear what it was that I did that influenced him to return to the Church. It will give valuable insights to any wife whose husband is difficult.
Anthony’s return to the Faith proves what I said in one of my other talks in Malaysia: that women have influence and power that can be used to lift up a man or to tear him down.
Consider this. If your marriage is good, the insights on my new DVD make it better. If your marriage is in trouble, these insights could save it, helping you avoid the unspeakable pain of divorce. And if you’re not married but eligible to enter the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, these insights can prepare you for a strong, successful, happy marriage. Just about everyone could benefit from my new DVD about marriage!
The sin that gave me trouble in confession
When I gave my talk in Malaysia about the sacrament of confession, I didn’t want to give a boring, theoretical talk. So I told the ladies about a particular sin I used to have a lot of trouble with – a sin that caused problems just about anywhere I went.
One time when I was busy at an important task in a church, the priest privately confronted me about the sin. I was speechless! I had no idea that I was sinning. On the contrary, I thought I was busy doing the Lord’s work. I began to hem and haw – and sputter – trying to make excuses.
The priest told me, “Just sit before the Lord and meditate on it for a while.
When you watch the DVD of my speech on confession from the Malaysia conference, you’ll hear what that embarrassing sin was. I didn’t hold anything back.
You need to know why confession is so important. You see, your heart is like a colander – it’s full of holes. God pours love and grace into your heart, but the holes in our heart allow the grace to flow out of it. I’m talking about figurative holes – representing sins. When we make a good confession, God stitches up the holes in our heart so we can grow in grace and be full of love.
Using a specific sin as an example – a sin that’s quite common among women – I explain how to get at the taproot of the sin, so you can uproot it altogether. Sins in our soul are like weeds in a garden. What good does it do to pull up a weed if it grows right back? You need to gently pull the weed in a way that allows you to follow it all the way to the taproot. And when you do that in your soul, you begin to make serious spiritual progress!
The secret of the spiritual life
In another one of my talks at the Malaysia conference I revealed the secret of the spiritual life – a secret that has changed my life.
For the first time ever, I reveal a momentous spiritual experience that happened to me on February 23, 2004, in a hotel room in Boise, Idaho, where I was giving a conference.
When you discover and apply the secret I reveal in that talk, you can expect marvels of grace to follow. Yes, marvels of grace. And this is important for two reasons. (1) You have an obligation to be a saint, and (2) Re-evangelization starts with you!
In my talks in Malaysia I also covered the difficult subjects of our day, including such subjects as the heartbreak of cohabitation, moral relativism, religious indifference, atheism, secularism, abortion, contraception, embryonic stem cell research, and so on.
These may be some of the best talks I’ve ever given. I certainly spared no effort in preparing for them. And that’s why I want you to have them.
How to get my new DVD on marriage and my other talks from Malaysia
I’d like to give you my new DVD on marriage, in which I discuss how to heal a strained marital relationship. This DVD can also help make a good marriage even better. I’ll send you this new DVD as a token of thanks for your gift of $50 or more. Could you send a gift like that?
But I have a much better offer for you. If you can send a tax-deductible gift of $100 or more, I’ll send you a DVD album of all eight talks I gave at the Malaysia conference. This includes my marriage talk, my confession talk, my spiritual secret talk, and all my other talks. Could you consider sending a tax-deductible gift of $100 or more?
If you are able to send $250, $500 – or even a heroic sacrifice of $1,000, $5,000 or more, would you prayerfully consider doing so? I would love to join hands with you in this great work of evangelization.
I’ll gratefully accept your gift – no matter how big or how small your gift is. The Lord commended the Widow for sacrificing a mite, which she gave out of her need. And we have often been abundantly blessed by just such a gift. Please join me in praying that the Lord will inspire others to give generously to support our ministry. Please send your sacrificial gift right away. Remember, we operate on a tight budget, trusting in the Lord to provide for our needs.
May the abundant life of Jesus Christ be yours.
In His service,
P.S. Please pray about my request and follow what the Lord leads you to do. The enemies of the Culture of Life hope you’ll set this letter aside and forget about it. Please don’t do that. Please join me in prayer and, if possible, send your gift today because the summer is a tough time to raise funds and because your gift will help me meet the urgent need at our ministry. Click here and make an on-line donation. If you do not want to donate online, you can also call in your gift to 1-800-558-5452 or mail it to us at Living His Life Abundantly, PO Box 239, Oldsmar FL 34677-3019.