Friday, May 20, 2016

Mother Teresa's Example to Me as a Bride, Looking Ahead & An Announcement

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During Lent, I decided, along with Emily of Raising Barnes and Stephanie of Bluebird Songs, to make my way through Mother Teresa's Come Be My Light for a little spiritual reading book club.  I have to admit, even after Pentecost I'm still making my way through, but the experience of reading about this beautiful woman's call to found her order as a "call within a call," among immense obstacles in the form of her spiritual director and bishop wanting to be sure the pull on Teresa's heart was from God and, most significantly, in the face of intense spiritual dryness and a complete absence of feeling the Lord's presence, left such an impression on me.

I first heard of the book from my best friend's younger sister, who at the time was discerning entering the Poor Clares.  At the time, I saw Mother Teresa as immensely beautiful and holy, so much so that she wasn't the most relatable, though certainly very admirable.  The book sounded interesting, yet I'm aware now that during my conversion in college I was protected by grace and didn't really experience much darkness or spiritual attack, so that being the focus of the book didn't really draw me at the time.


I found a copy in a used bookstore after I graduated and decided to read it because of Tersa's missionary nature, as I was spending that year on mission.  It was also the year I was engaged, and what stood out to me most, and still did on this second reading, is how literally Jesus and Teresa were like spouses. As I read during Lent, I noticed how Jesus constantly called her things like his little bride and little spouse, and noticed the sacrifice to which she went to do his will, even when in doubt and even when it caused her pain.  Before the publication of Come Be My Light, most of the world didn't know that the beautiful sister in blue and white, perpetually smiling and visibly joyful, was thirsting for God, crying out to him for years as she felt, quite literally, locked out of heaven.

What's more, Mother Teresa's spousal love for Christ stood out to me as a pure, beautiful form of obedience.  As a sister, Teresa took the Franciscan vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and later felt drawn to make a fourth private vow: she promised Jesus that she would refuse him nothing.  How simple, I thought, yet so immense to consider as it's actually lived out, especially when you consider her dark night of the soul.  

I asked myself what Andrew's and my relationship would look like if, after discerning that a request of his was a worthy one, I were to simply do it, out of love for him and a desire for both of our sanctification.  Obviously, things like chores don't require much discernment, but our major life decisions do, and the level of trust required of me would be huge.  I told my husband this, and after he thanked me for being so willing to love him in this way, he said, "You have to remember that I'm not God. I don't have every answer figured out, and don't have the perfect knowledge that he does of every right path for us."  Smart, smart, good-lookin' man. He'd started the book, too, and told me he'd also been inspired by Teresa's obedience to Christ, her beloved spouse.  But what he pointed out to me is that of course we can't make each other into idols and blindly assume that everything we ask of each other is something we should actually do.  Still, we agreed, what an amazing model for a marriage to imitate Mother Teresa's faithfulness and desire to seek the Father's will in all things, in the form of constant daily obedience.

Reading the book six years ago as Andrew's fiance, Mother Teresa's divine intimacy with Jesus felt like a huge, but worthy, ideal to strive for, though I knew I'd fall short and would have to go easy on myself. And now, nearly five years into my marriage, I actually feel pretty sobered by the realization of just how damn much I fall short. Andrew's weeks of intense studying for his comps exams a few months ago were one of the most stressful times our relationship has ever encountered, and Come Be My Light was a powerful motivation for me to realize this time is God's will for us.  I saw, and continue to see, so clearly how a willingness to put yourself aside so entirely for your spouse is worth the constant effort.  It's worth our eternity.


Depending on my mood or how I've acted on a given day, that realization is either discouraging or inspiring, but I keep reminding myself that being down on myself is not of God, and neither is feeling frustrated with my abilities in my marriage.  Instead, it's an opportunity to beg for grace and try to receive it well.

So that's our life as we prepare to celebrate our fifth anniversary two months from now.  I look back at photos of us as newlyweds and see two twenty-three year old kids with stars in their eyes, aglow with the joy of a lifetime to come.  And truly, the joy we've experienced is impossible to put into words.  The stumbling blocks, the sorrows, though; they're just as incommunicable.  We still have stars in our eyes, but we're tempered now by the times we've failed each other in sacrifice or patience or quick apologies or even simple kind words.  

I told Andrew recently how sorry I still feel for all these long since forgiven moments, and though we both understand we should still hold each other to a standard of truest love, he said knowing that we've fallen short has still brought us closer to each other and to holiness.  When we got married, he said, we loved each other completely (with all the effort and intention that entails), because we knew a completeness of each other at the time.  The longer we've been married, though, the more complete that vision of each other has become. He told me that in some ways, the trust we founded our vows on is even more trustworthy and entire now, after being tested by our seeing the deepest flaws and weaknesses in each other.  Our love, and commitment to keep loving completely, remains, and is richer than it was on that July day five summers ago.

Approaching a milestone anniversary, three moves and two babies from when I started Captive the Heart in 2012, feels like a good time for a transition.  I mentioned to you a few weeks ago how thrilled I am to be collaborating with three dear friends on Spoken Bride, a wedding and lifestyle blog for Catholic brides and newlyweds launching on the 31st of this month, the Feast of the Visitation.  At least for now, I'll be focusing my writing efforts there.  Spoken will feature real, beautiful Catholic wedding photos and love stories alongside the kind of wedding-related content that's here on Captive the Heart, so my words might take a turn a little away from the personal toward the editorial. I'll still be telling stories and showing you pictures of my babies here.  I'll be writing my last few posts here over the next few weeks, and will continue sharing articles, graphics, and photos you won't find on the blog on Facebook through the 31st.  I am so unbelievably excited for this new ministry and the truth and beauty it has to offer. I hope you'll join me!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Four Ways Your Wedding Website Can Help You Evangelize, with Love.

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I was twelve at the time, but I can still remember my first encounter with a wedding website for my youngest uncle and now-aunt's wedding.  My aunt wore those black Steve Madden platform slides that mysteriously have made a comeback this season (Maybe that's why I can't get on board with the slide/overalls/mom jean trends?  They hit too close to childhood!), and within a few months all of my aunts, me, my sister, and a few of my girl cousins all had a pair, too.  In other words, she was the coolest, and during those days of a younger internet, so was having a wedding website.

Obviously, it's way more common to make a website these days, but I still love reading about a couple's big day and love story when I get invited to a wedding…or, you know, even if I'm not invited but someone I know is engaged and I still want to read about their big day and love story.  Please don't think I'm too crazy.

Aside from the normal deets like the who and the where and the RSVPs, directing guests to your wedding site also gives you a unique opportunity to share your faith with your family and friends.  Stating why you believe what you do, in your own words and in a way that's truthful, casual, and aimed at the heart, can go a long way in making your Catholic wedding an invitation to deeper understanding and a witness to the beauty of marriage in the Church.  I suggest...

Telling the story of a saint who's had a hand in your relationship.  True stories of virtue and holiness speak for themselves, and they also offer you an opportunity to break down why and how Catholics call upon the saints' intercession.

Short explanations of parts of the Mass, like communion and the Rite of Marriage, for guests who might be unfamiliar.  On the page with your Mass details, briefly and charitably talking about modest dress in the chapel, who can receive communion and why, and why the Rite of Marriage matters for the sacrament can all go a long way in making your guests (particularly non-Catholics or those who've been away from the faith) feel at ease and not experience any surprises that could be misperceived as exclusive or judgmental, like a non-Catholic not being permitted to receive the Eucharist.  If you're looking for a starting point, this post speaks to some common questions unique to Catholic marriage, like vows, music, and cohabitation.

Host an open-invitation holy hour after your wedding rehearsal.  One of the most beautiful moments of my life was praying with my best friends Teresa and Beth after Beth's rehearsal, before heading to dinner, in the chapel on our college campus where we'd all, at some point, smiled and cried thinking about our future husbands, babies, and marriages.  The tears poured down as we knelt shoulder to shoulder and as I marveled at how the Father had answered each of our hopes and prayers so specifically and so abundantly in the men he gave to us.  At another wedding I went to, the bride and groom had their priest and a few friends lead anyone who wanted to come in an hour of Adoration, confession, and Praise and Worship the night before the wedding, and heaven really did touch earth during that hour.  Following suit, by planning a holy hour and sharing it with your guests via your website, is amazing for both you as the couple getting married and for everyone who will share in your wedding with you.

Invite your guests to leave their intentions on your wedding site, and pray for them.  I love writing a message in a couple's online guest book and requesting songs in the, well, request box on their site, but two of my friends also included an Intention Box on their wedding website.  Guests' prayer requests weren't public, so only the bride and groom saw them, and I found their promise to pray for everyone attending in such personal ways so incredibly generous and beautiful.

I hope these ways of evangelizing to your guests really do call your family and friends into communion with you and express what you stand for in a loving way, especially if there are sensitivities among them where faith is concerned.  Above all, though, I truly think the best, most important witness of all is one that doesn't even need to be typed and posted--quite simply, the joy of entering into marriage with a pure heart, radiant, evident joy, and desire for complete self-gift is impossible to ignore.  Don't worry about it being your personal responsibility to change anyone's mind about the Church; just be yourselves, the selves who so clearly wear their love for all to see, knowing that love flows from Love himself, and what you value and what sets your marriage apart will be crystal clear.  I promise!

Did I miss anything on this list?  Tell me how you've shared the Gospel with your guests through your wedding site or otherwise!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Inspired: Bridal Shower Style

Three weeks before Aaron was born, Andrew drove me to his brother's house and said we were going on apple picking, but we had to stop at his grandparents' first.  Suspish.  At the time, I hadn't had a baby shower yet, and while I was firmly in the camp that no one is required to throw you a party, I have to admit I'd been wondering about all the complicated plans Andrew had been making, that seemed to keep changing.  So I put on a simple dress that I could theoretically pick apples in and let him walk me to the door.  Sure enough, there were both of our families, a cake, and a bunch of blue decorations.

The point is, a shower--baby or bridal--is a gift, and sometimes you know when it's happening, and sometimes it's a surprise.  If you do know when your bridal shower will be, do you have an outfit picked out?  Personally, I don't love the spotlight, but on the few occasions where I knew a lot of attention would be on me at a party, I had fun choosing what to wear because at showers, it's so much fun to be dressed up with other women and appreciate their style choices.  Sparkly shoes, pretty nails, or a blowout would generally be lost on my husband (like, he might notice and admire those kind of things, but doesn't think they're necessary and hence just doesn't particularly care about them), but sharing in all of that with girls is special.  Not the entire point of the day, of course, but definitely special.

So here's an easy bridal shower style formula you can adapt to your style: a white outfit, a little something that sparkles, and something bright or shiny to make a statement.  Inspiration here and links below:

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CLASSIC LOOK / peplum dress / scallop heels (they have blue soles with a heart--hello wedding shoes!) / MAC lipstick in Pink Noveau
ROMANTIC LOOK / off-the-shoulder dress / Becca rose gold highlighter / geode earrings
MINIMALIST LOOK / romper / Mrs. necklace / slides
Your turn.  Which of these looks would you choose, and do you have a favorite way to style a pre-wedding outfit?

P.S.  If you're getting your makeup professionally done for your wedding day, the day of your bridal shower is a perfect time to do a test run!




Tuesday, April 26, 2016

My New Catholic Wedding Project: Introducing Spoken Bride


If things have been a little quiet around here lately, it's because I've been working on a project that's been in the works for almost a year.  I'm thrilled to introduce you to SPOKEN BRIDE, a new website that combines lifestyle articles for brides and newlyweds, visual inspiration from jaw-dropping real Catholic weddings, and community for Catholic wedding vendors.

Last summer, my friends Jiza, Elissa (she took that gorgeous image above from Maura of Made In His Image's wedding!) and I started talking about what a need there is to foster connections between Catholic wedding photographers, planners, and designers in order to help them find clients who appreciate their fire for the sacrament of marriage, as well as the need for a resource that provides visually beautiful images and inspiration on par with the culture's wedding sites, yet made deeper and truer with spiritual richness.  A few weeks ago, our friend Andi joined us, and things have been rolling, and rolling fast, since then.  SPOKEN BRIDE launches May 31, the Feast of the Visitation, to close the month of Our Lady with a nod to her identity as the purest, most humble, obedient, radiant bride, in the best sense of the words.

I couldn't be happier that this dream, a long time coming, now has some real internet roots, and we have high hopes for SPOKEN becoming a distinctive, noted resource for lots of brides.  Read more about us and about our mission here.  Meantime, I'll still be posting here, at least through the end of May, and am currently discerning how SPOKEN and Captive the Heart will intersect.

Want to get involved?  This community will be dependent on submissions and involvement from y'all, so we'd love to have you!
  • If you're engaged or newlywed, find info about submitting your wedding or engagement shoot here.
  • If you're a photographer or other wedding vendor, click here for more on joining our Vendor Guide and having your work and your business featured on the site and in our forthcoming directory for brides.
  • Do you have an article idea?  Deets on submitting written work are here.
Please pray for us as we start this ministry and share it with your friends, ministry partners, and fellow vendors and creatives!  I hope you'll join me!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Family Updates

My last post about my family was to tell you how Lily was born and how much I liked labor tubs. Since then, I've become a mom of a five month old and a two and a half year old, both in the same week (And actually, oops, Aaron's birthday is on the 16th of the month and Lily's is the 13th, but I always think hers is the 16th, too.  Second child stereotypes…). I've also become wife to a PhD doctoral candidate, which is the title Andrew gets after PASSING COMPS, YO. I'm unspeakably proud of him. Here's what else has been going on.




Andrew: Like I said, passed the biggest exams of his life and never has to take another test. Read a book for pleasure for the first time in months, recommended it to me, and we both loved it.  I just finished this one, after months of wanting to see the movie. Have you read or seen it?





Aaron: As adorably, hilariously obsessed with trucks as ever. Proof: asked what the palms were on Palm Sunday, and while I tried to explain, interrupted me to say it was the pump from a concrete pumping truck (You didn't know what that was before you were a boy mom?  Me neither!). Asks to walk by the construction site across the street from us every day, which we do while walking to pick up Andrew from the metro. Graduated from Pack 'n Play to hand-me-down race car bed, killed his nap, and killed it good. We're working on enforced rest time, if enforced means sort of encouraged on my part--some days it's more tiring to chase him back into his room to play quietly than to keep him with me all day! Hugs and kisses his sister all day long, with gusto; caught stroking her head when she woke up from a nap, saying, "It's okay, Lily" and repeatedly shoving her pacifier at her. Verrry gradually potty training. Asks us questions all day long, loves drawing clouds and cars (lots of circles, mostly), learned how to play this game, and despite typically trying toddler willfulness that's sometimes made worse by lack of naps, is just so affectionate and wonderfully himself and makes his mama so happy to talk to and watch him.







Lily: Learned to roll from back to belly and tries at every opportunity. Giggles like crazy whenever her brother jumps off of something, leans over to kiss her, or shakes a toy in front of her face. Only wants to stand, never sit, on our laps.  Grabs at things with increasing accuracy, whether toy or teething ring or her mommy's hair. Constantly vocalizes during the day, usually sounds that can be best described as "ga-ROO!" It's unclear who is more amused by this. Wakes up four times a night.  Hopefully this will change when she gets kicked out of our room this week.  Hopefully.

In many ways, the last few weeks have been a transitional sort of time for our family, as we adjust to Andrew having slightly more free time than he did at the height of his studying, and me having slightly less between my book release and the death of naptime. Sacrifice is a funny thing; we are far from perfect at it, but the more habitual it becomes, the harder it is to let someone sacrifice for you--joy is a fruit of putting another person before yourself, and as much as I complained some days during the comps madness, I sometimes wish there was more I could do for Andrew now, when it's not an absolute necessity that I do most of the chores or baby caring. It's not that I want to be in control of everything or be praised for things that I do; I just want to be able to help my husband, and now that our roles have been temporarily reversed (I.e. I have more deadlines and pressing priorities than he does right now, whereas it's been vice versa for the past few months), I struggle to let him help me without feeling guilty. Please pray for us as we discern how to balance each of our responsibilities in the best way for our family.

But honestly; look at those brown-eyed babies. Life is sweet, friends.

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