Friday, February 18, 2011

7 years of bliss?

This week was our seventh wedding anniversary, and it reminded me that I haven't blogged lately about being Catholic and married. Logging on just now I realize it has been a year! Time certainly flies, doesn't it?

This past month brought us one of the largest blizzards Chicago has ever seen. I have vague memories of 1979 and the giant walls of snow on either side of the sidewalk, and the excessive sledding we did down every hill around. I wasn't born yet when the 1967 blizzard hit, but it was a consistent reference point for my parents and grandparents every winter when the snow would come. So I knew OF it to be sure.

In addition to being our seventh anniversary, this coming fall will be the tenth anniversary of when Jim and I met. I realize that my life has fallen into a very comfortable groove of being married and having a routine and a pattern for everything we do. It's hard for me to even believe that ten years ago today - my mother was alive, I lived the single life in a high rise downtown, and the thought of ever getting married wasn't even on my radar screen. My husband was dating a teacher and living his own life with no knowledge of me or the life that was in store for him. We were absolutely unaware of what was coming in the next several months.

For me, it was the very sudden loss of my mom and the resulting upheaval of life and emotional chaos. Six weeks later was September 11, 2001. It takes some effort for me to remember that summer. But when I do, I feel the full force of the pain and uncertainty that filled my life. And then came the amazing gift I was given when Jim walked into my life.

I have known for some time now that the summer of 2001 was a sea change for me. Those events changed who I am, and because of that, my heart was opened to the possibilities of love and marriage. If my mother had not died, I would not have likely thought about dating and marriage. I had a comfortable pattern to my life. I worked, traveled, had fun and Life was great. I lacked nothing. I didn't want change. When my mother died, I felt alone for the first time in my life, despite my family around me. Even because of them, actually. They were all married and having families. I was single. Nobody knew where I was in the world or when my flight landed. Nobody wondered if I had made it home from a trip.

When September 11 happened, my roommates parents made her "come home" to Indiana. But I had nowhere to come home to. I can still remember sitting in my high-rise, staring out at the empty streets below. The eerie quiet of the city. Like most companies, we had sent everyone home at work - and the city was all but abandoned. I felt more alone than ever. And I questioned everything from life to death to faith to marriage.

I didn't know that the result of the agonizing day and the soul searching it caused in me would lead me to where I am today. I didn't know that losing my Mom started a chain reaction in my heart that changed the course of my life. But I do know, with absolute certainty, that those two events combined to create a new life for me. Out of death and destruction, my life changed forever.

I met Jim just a few days later. Had it been any other time, I would not have been looking, and I would not have been open to the possibility of falling in love. I would not have met him. And I would not be here today.

When I do think back and remember that summer, I can feel the pain rush back because I remember how troubled my heart was. How lonely and alone I felt. And how lost I was. How my life that had such a wonderful routine and pattern to it, that was filled with happiness and enjoyment, could be so incredibly knocked off track. And the distance of almost a decade makes me smile because I known that my happiness today is so much greater. And that by changing tracks, I changed everything.

Amazing the things that the Lord does in our lives, especially when we cannot see the outcome. We see the pain in front of us in that moment, and we cry out to Lord for help, but we aren't sure if help will come. But it does. It always comes. Sometimes in ways we cannot even imagine.

Friday, February 12, 2010

6 years and counting

This weekend marks our 6th wedding anniversary. We've started the custom of giving each other gifts in keeping with the traditional 'themes' of each year of marriage. This year it's IRON.

Interestingly, the item usually gives us a great conversation topic for the weeks leading up to our Valentine Day anniversary. This year was no exception.

Why iron? We both wondered. I suggested that because after 6 years of marriage, iron represented the strength of the bond between us. But will that argument fall apart in later years when softer metals are introduced? LOL. Hopefully not.

I'd love to hear how others celebrate their anniversary and if anyone else uses the traditional gifts to help them celebrate.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Casting the first stone

Today's Gospel tells the story of a woman who was "caught in the act of adultery" and brought before Jesus to be stoned to death, as was the Jewish law at the time. Jesus told the angry crowds that the person among them who was without sin should be the first to cast a stone. The story continues that one by one, they all went away, leaving the woman alone with Jesus. Jesus forgave the woman her sins telling her "Has no one condemned you? Neither do I condemn you, now go and sin no more."

When I was a child, the concept of adultery was so horrible, and so sinful, that we could not believe it really happened in the world. Like stealing, and murder, it was something so terrible, so unspeakable, that it was relegated to sordid tales in movies or books. But it never really happened in our world. Certainly not in our town, or on our street. And never in our home.

Today I am an adult, and I know how real adultery is. How commonplace. It has really become almost unremarkable. People speak of it freely, and admit it openly. And nobody seems shocked, surprised or appalled by it. Instead, the sanctity of marriage has now been reduced to the stuff of legends. Some people find it almost laughable.

When I was preparing for marriage just three years ago, I was amazed at how many people around me were either divorced, separated, or living in an adulterous marriage. It was almost insulting to me that so many people would freely flaunt their own failed attempts at marriage right in front of me, as I was preparing for the sacrament of marriage.

I was surprised that, even if they had indeed failed at marriage, they would be so willing to expose that truth to me. Why would friends who purportedly cared about me want to spoil or darken my joy and happiness with their own tales of infidelity or unhappiness? I seemed to be surrounded by it, and it felt like a bad joke.

Recently a friend called to chat - mostly about her boyfriend's problems with his ex-wife and kids and her own problems with her ex-husband and kids. After introducing me to the initial "shock" of her infidelity and divorce a couple of years ago, she would often claim that she "did things in the wrong order" and that she shouldn't have cheated on her husband. She would say that the right thing would have been to divorce him first, and then start seeing her boyfriend. And she will act contrite, as though admitting to this 'small mistake' were all she truly needed to do.

Several people very close to me have called me for counsel over the past couple of years, admitting infidelity. Sometimes physical and always emotional. Seeking out my advice and perhaps even my approval. It's amazing how strong of a case people can build against someone they once promised to love, honor and cherish until death. And usually the crimes these spouses stand accused of are little more than being human, or being themselves.

"She never makes the grand gesture, you know?" said one of them. "She wants me to do everything - she has no opinion, no input." I listened as he described the back-end of what he used to think was flexibility and agreeability. Now she was condemned for it.

So many ways people characterize their need to leave:
"We're both different people today - we grew apart."
"I don't even know who she is anymore."
"He doesn't meet my emotional needs."
"We just fell out of love."

How do you fall out of love? I will admit to being a bit naive, having only been married for 3 years. But in these short three years, I have learned how much work goes into being married. It is not as effortless as I had once believed.

Indeed, many of the things I love about Jim can become aggravation points today. His wonderful sense of humor, for example. Sometimes when he thinks he's being funny, I think he's being mean. He'll tell me, "but you love me for my sense of humor!"

It's hard to find people to talk to today about being married who share my point of view. Marriage is a sacrament - it's more than simply a living arrangement. And when I explain my views on marriage, some people take it as an indictment or judgement of themselves.

I don't wish to cast any stone, much less the first. At the same time, I feel like my silence is almost an endorsement. Perhaps that is the problem today? Are too many of us silent when we need to speak? Are too many of us afraid of how we'll look and sound if we profess that we think every married person should be held accountable for the vows they've taken?

I don't have any answers. If you do, please share.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

we dont want to be responsible

one of the main reasons we don't keep our word
is that, on some level,
we don't want to be responsible for how
we really are.
it's often harder for us to admit
our strengths and our efficacies
than it is to admit our
flaws and our failures.
as a matter of fact,
we often form our relationships
by bonding over our mutual inadequacies.
many of us secretly believe that when we're weak
and impotent,
we're not responsible for our lives--
and we're relieved to be off the hook.
it's a high price to pay
but most of us live that way.
it's like having one foot on the planet
and one foot off.
i'll be human but refuse to really own
all that that implies.
we want to form relationships
that build upon our strengths
and enhance our assets.
we want unions formed upon strong foundations of
respect and reliability
that can withstand the true challenges of life
that might come our way.
and that goal begins, again, with the self--
by building inner
that enable you to stand solidly within yourself
no matter what disappointments you may face.
we begin by rooting out
our inner divisions
as a means of establishing...
*inner unification.*

--katherine woodward thomas

Our deepest fear

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

-Marianne Williamson

I wanted to share this quote today because it is so powerful and moving. Many people do not understand the meaning of this quote, or the meaning of what it means to be afraid of 'success', and so I will share my thoughts on that.

We are, indeed, afraid that we are powerful beyond measure, because that means we are responsible and accountable for the use of our talents. We are expected to DO something with the gifts that God has given us. We can never understand why God has blessed us with our gifts, any more than we can understand why he tests us with our crosses and failings.

The thought that God has given us an incredible gift, and that we are expected to use it, is terrifying. If you have the gift of leadership, how will you use that gift to the Glory of God? We are not afraid that we will fail at leadership, we are afraid that we have to rise to the occasion and use that gift. We are afraid that we can, indeed, be powerful beyond measure, because when we use God's gifts for His glory, we simpyl cannot fail. But to do that means that we have to use the gifts for Him. We often want to use our gifts for our own wishes, our own needs.

We can serve ourselves, or we can serve God. God gives his gifts freely - and we can use them as we choose. We are afraid. As Adam and Eve were afraid in the Garden of Eden, so we are afraid to step forward and admit our own selfishness, our own fear, our own misgivings. How beautiful to step into the light of Christ and freely use our gifts to serve others, to serve God.

We are powerful beyond measure. But when we don't use our gifts to their fullest potential - to their 'highest and best use' - we are like a small child with a powerful tool. We have no way to know what to do with it, and can barely manage to handle it. Only when we are enlightened to its use, to God's need for it, can we master it.

Of course, I may be wrong. But that is what I think it means.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Love may be blind, but it isn't stupid.

I was driving in to work this morning, listening to WTMX Chicago, and the entire drive was devoted to a promotion they are having with US Cellular called "Is Love Blind?" (Check it out here at

The basic premise of this promotion is that they are looking for a man and woman who are willing to meet over the phone and online, but never in person, and hopefully fall in love. The end goal is for them to marry in 6 weeks, having never laid eyes on one another.

During this 6 weeks time, we - the listeners - get to hear from them, their friends, their families, and psychologists, and watch as this love affair unfolds.

The belief that love is not based on looks alone is a valid one. But we don't need this public 'experiment' to prove that, we have years of old war-time penpals and current internet matches that prove that theory in spades.

But love IS based on intimacy. It's based on a voluntary and gradual sharing of oneself with another. It's not based on looks, but it is based on attraction. To suggest that this dance of emotions can take place in only six weeks, and in such a public forum, is ridiculous. To suggest that based on these six weeks, a couple can create a foundation for a lasting marriage? Well... that's a disgrace.

This cavalier attitude toward marriage is why so many marriages fail. If after 6 weeks they marry but then it doesn't work out, no worries! That's what divorce is for! People would put more time into buying a home than this. I have spent more than 6 weeks researching a car purchase. But it's harder to get out of a car contract or new home purchase than it is a marriage. How sad of a statement is that?

I'm sure this promotion will get lots of attention and, unfortuntately, lots of entries. A lot of people are looking for love. False promises like this make it seem so easy. Let the radio station and all of their 'experts' match you up with your perfect partner and then go get married.

Perhaps most disturbing to me is what that couple will miss out on. The awkward dance of courtship is what makes it so special when you get through it and it turns into love. Holding hands for the first time -- I still recall the very moment with Jim. The first kiss. The uncertainty of the other person's feelings.... hours of consult with friends and family. Calls to girlfriends at 2am to discuss in excrutiating detail every word spoken on a date. Every piece of minutiae dissected for meaning.

Learning later on that there was no meaning in half of what he did matters not. Jim denies many of the things my friends and I perfectly catalogued and analyzed. From which couch he sat on (he sat on the far couch which meant he didn't like the porkchops) to what he said when he dropped me off after a date (he said 'talk to you later' without telling me a time, which meant he was being aloof and controlling.)

I laugh as I recall it all. Months and months and months of careful analysis and conjecture. Countless rings of group emails and late night phone calls. Lunches where my friends and I poured over everything. And the gradual cessation of those sessions. The gradual shifting of trust from them... to him. The slow, steady transfer of time and attention away from the friends and toward the man. The eventual realization that he was my soulmate. The letting go of safety and then taking the risk to make the leap of love.

I would not give up a single moment, a single tear, a single fear of those days, weeks, months, years. Countless times I would question if he was "the one." And countless times I made the choice to continue forward to find out. All of it leading up to that sudden and unexpected moment when he asked me to marry him.

And then, the joys and the excitement of being engaged! The culmination of 18 months of dating, worry, laughter, tears, good times, bad times, and waiting. The fears of what it meant to get married, the realization that I had nothing to fear. Several more months of preparation, emotional ups and downs and excitement beyond belief.

To lose all of that? To abbreviate my courtship to 6 weeks? Never. There would be time for doubt, but not enough time to work through that doubt to certainty. There would be time for fear, but not enough time to work past that fear to surety. There would be time for apprehension, but not enough time to find real conviction.

When I stood on that altar and promised to love my husband until death, there was not a doubt in my mind. I had done the hard work to get to that day. And as much as I loved my wedding (and boy did I!) it was one day in my life. It was the first day of my married life. But the hard work continues. A different kind of work, to be sure. But it's built upon the foundation of the work done before.

Marriage is much more than simply finding people who are compatible and then rushing them into the wedding. Getting married and being married are two completely different things. The problem today is that too many people want the former, and too few want the latter.

This promotion deludes people into thinking it's that easy to find love and marriage. The "blind" portion of it is simply a gimmick to appeal to our voyeuristic natures. And it places the most attention on the one thing it claims it is removing from the equation - physical appearance.

If the couple gets married, they would argue, then it means looks were not as important. If the marriage fails? Then looks are all important. You don't need to be a scientist to see the flaws in this kind of thinking. To even suggest that 6 weeks is all that are needed to form a lasting bond is foolish. To hold out that false hope to countless people looking for love... is a shame.

Friday, February 23, 2007

How disparity of cult made me more Catholic

I've now been married for exactly 3 years, 1 week and 4 days. Yes, we were married on Valentine's Day.

So many of my friends and family were delighted to know that they didn't have to make plans for Valentine's Day, because my wedding would be their celebration. Guys especially thought it was great - their wives would get to dress up, eat a great dinner, enjoy some romantic dancing with their husbands, and generally be surrounded by the idea of love. What could be more perfect?

I loved everything about my wedding. I planned every detail myself, and I had a blast. But I love my marriage even more. There is something so sacred to me about being joined as one with another human being. As I mentioned in my last post, my husband keeps reminding me that we are together "no matter what." Which is a pretty big deal for him to be on board with - he wasn't even Catholic when we married. He had no faith or religion at all. But he went through RCIA 2 years ago and - as my first anniversary gift - he became Catholic.

As a cradle Catholic, it is amusing to see things from his perspective from time to time. But most amazing for me, is that this man supports the sacrament of marriage 100%. He comes from divorced parents, and an upbringing that would seem to defy Catholicism in its entirety. But he gets it. And he believes it. And that makes all the difference.

I never told him he had to become Catholic - in fact I made it a point not to try and force him to. I kept my faith, and the Holy Spirit did the rest.

People would advise me to "force him" to become Catholic before the wedding, which I always found laughable. You can't force someone to believe something. If you don't believe in baptism, and you become baptised, is it really a sacrament? I'm not a theologian, but I would argue that if you don't believe in what you're doing, the criteria for a sacrament are lacking. Which seems dangerous to me, because it might preclude someone from honestly obtaining the sacrament at a later time, when they ARE ready.

I didn't want my husband to pretend to be Catholic for me. I didn't want him to pretend to believe in something he didn't believe in so my family and friends would approve. I wanted him to really believe. I wanted him to WANT to become Catholic. I wanted him to see the value faith could have in his life and want that for himself.

I led by example. He came to church with me. Perhaps unwillingly at first, but he knew that my butt was in that pew every Sunday. So if he wanted to see me on Sundays, his day would start with Mass.

At first he agreed to go twice a month. I never asked him to do that. And I never asked him to do more. I simply said, "ok." Then he started coming every week. Pretty soon we had a regular pew at our church and Jim started helping with the collection. It's fun to watch the Holy Spirit work.

One of the church ladies talked to Jim about RCIA. He asked me if I "set him up." I said, no. I never asked you to become Catholic. But if you want to, I want to support you.

Now let me say that I don't claim to be a perfect Catholic. I am far from it. I spent my college years skipping Mass more than I went. And for years I had no problem skipping if I 'needed' to. But after my mom died a few years ago, I found solace and strength in my faith more than ever. Her example of faith was so strong - so devout. After her death, and with my father having died a few years earlier, it was - at times - the only thing I had to hold on to.

Some of my friends have become so angry with God that they left the church after a death or a tragedy. One of my brothers laughed at me when I suggested he should go to Mass when he told me he didn't go anymore. Several friends have told me that my mother's funeral and my wedding were the last times they were even in a church.

The thought of leaving the faith after my mother's death was unthinkable to me. But it was hard to know what to do or where to go. When you are young and your parents have both died, you are like a boat without anchors, without sails, and without oars. You simply toss about at the whim of the sea. No way to stop, no way to steer. All you can do is hang on and hope. And pray.

To have left the church would have been an insult to my parents and everything they tried to teach me. So no matter how I felt, I went to Mass. But I felt so alone. I felt so alone in my faith, and so alone in the world.

Because I met my husband right after my mother died, he never got to meet her.
He doesn't know it, but when he started going to Mass with me, it made it even easier for me. Sharing my faith with someone else made it more important to me. Explaining why we do things made me understand it more myself. And suddenly I didn't feel so alone anymore.

When he joined RCIA, I went with him to every class, and I learned a lot, too. Hard to admit for a cradle Catholic with 12 years of Catholic schooling behind her. I thought I knew everything there was to know about our faith. But I was wrong.

In the end, I know that from his perspective, I brought him to the church. He would tell you that my faith inspired him to become Catholic. He would tell you that I am the reason we go to Mass, and are involved in our parish. In reality, he brought me to the church. More fully. More purposefully.

I know that marriage is a sacrament and that it's a gift from God. God brought this man into my life - a man who seemed to have no faith. At one of the worst times in my life, when I was so much in need of someone to hold my hand and guide me through. God didn't send me a Catholic, he made me one. Because all that time I thought the Holy Spirit was moving him ... it was working on me.