Friday, February 12, 2016

Captive the Heart Turns Four: A Roundup of Favorites and Some Minor Sentimentality

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My marathon of post-Lily guest offerings is done just in time for her to turn 3 months old in a few days.  And what better way to ease myself back into the blogging habit, I figure, than with a post light on new stuff and heavy on past linkage.  Last Wednesday marked four years since I wrote my first blog post ever.  I hesitated to say my blog "turned four" in the title since, you know, I've only actively written it for about three of those four years.  I can only say I fully plan to have things be different when my children turn four.

My children!  It would be stating the obvious to say so much has changed in my life over four years, but seriously.  I went from unemployed newlywed to government worker, to briefly unemployed again, to secretary to nanny to full-time mama.  I went from being a Masters degree wife in one city to a PhD wife in another.  We had a baby, then had another one.  I wrote a book.  I gratefully watched comments slooowly roll in as I talked about awkward things, ventured for a while into amateur fashion blogging, and shared my life.

Far better than the comments are the friendships.  I think every blogger hopes she'll be widely read, with comments, likes, and emails to show for it.  And I have to admit that yes, those visible, quantifiable marks of how many peeps are reading make my day when I receive them and sometimes throw me into unattractively self-centered doubt when I don't.  But more than just wanting the readership, I sincerely wanted to form a community, however small, here, and am so happy that intention has become real.  I love the sisterhood I've found in some readers and other bloggers, and love that I'm on a similar path with some of the closest friends I've made through blogging--over the past few years, we have each started families and grown through the newlywed phase of our marriages around the same time.

So, if you are reading this, thank you.  I'm so grateful for your prayers, your words, and your friendship.  If you're a longtime reader, thank you for sticking with a writer who let "maternity break" stretch into a yearlong blog death when her first baby turned everything upside down.  If you're new here, thank you for dropping by, and I hope you'll stay a while.  I still feel about this piece of the internet the same way I did when I started it: that I hope my love of weddings and relentless, if clumsy, pursuit of authentic love will come through these words and images to inspire your relationship and will just let me be a vessel of something greater; the path to holiness and to heaven, illuminated by Mary to the feet of her Son.

In celebration (and, like I said, because I'm easing back into this!), here, in no particular order, are 10 of my favorite posts, to revisit or to read for the first time:
Theology of the Body-inspired first dance songs 
The sort of mourning I sometimes feel for newlywed life, and how I'm learning to reconcile my identity as bride and mother 
My favorite quality in my husband 
Why one World Youth Day attendee was right when he said St. Pope John Paul II "introduced us to ourselves" through the person of Jesus 
How I became okay with feeling like a boring couple
Are soul mates real, and does it matter? 
That time Andrew hijacked my blog
Honeymoon multi-taskers for lazy packers and small suitcases 
The book that puts my particular spirituality into words 
Remembering my best, and last, first date
So, four years in, can we have a little State of the Blog chat in the comments?  Tell me what you like to see here, what you don't, and how I can make this into a better wedding planning resource for you.  I love hearing from you, truly!  Much love.



Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Brides Who've Been There: 9 Laugh and Cry-Worthy Proposal Stories


I'm taking a blogging break to soak up our sweet Lily Grace (and, let's be honest, to keep my head above water through this beautiful newborn chaos), so I asked some of my married friends to contribute in my absence.  Today I'm concluding my series on other brides' take on wedding planning, bridal beauty and style, and newlywed life.  

love proposal stories and asked them to share!



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My mother had passed away a few months prior, and there was so much work that needed to be done on my house--I lived with my mom to help take care of her, and any home repairs just went by the wayside with all her appointments, surgeries, and hospitalizations.   I applied for a Catholic youth group  to help with repairs.  The mission group that worked on my house was wonderful, and we became very close.  They invited my (then) boyfriend and I to join them for dinner each evening.  On one of these evenings, my boyfriend got up and said how encouraging the whole group was, and then he got down on one knee.  There's nothing like having 100 teenagers to share your joy!  A couple of them even were able to come to the wedding!  My engagement ring is my mother's diamond in a new setting. - Jenn


My husband is very romantic and always loves to surprise me.  One day, he blindfolded me and drove me around town so I would lose my sense of direction.  He eventually stopped the car and told me to wait inside for a minute.  Then he came and got me and pulled off my blindfold.  We were at a park, and in front of me was a picnic on a blanket.  There was a vase of roses, two candles, and my favorite Chinese food.  I was so thrilled.  As we sat down, my then-boyfriend asked if I noticed anything unusual.  I said no.  He then drew my attention to a ring slid down on the candle stem.  I was so overjoyed.  I pulled it off and we hugged.  The funny thing was that while we were hugging, my husband whispered into my ear, "Will you marry me?"  The day was kind of chilly, so I had a hood on and I didn't hear him whisper through the hood.  When we pulled back from the hug, he had this look of panic on his face.  I asked him what was wrong and he said, "You didn't answer me."  Then I realized what had happened, gave him a big smile and said, "You never had to ask.  I've known it was you from day one."  We've been married for 14 years now and he is still the one.  My ring is very simple, but I love it.  It was bought by a poor college boy who couldn't wait to ask me, and for that reason alone it is priceless to me.  It is also a reminder of how far we've come.  We were 22 when we married and didn't have much, but we have grown a beautiful life together.  The ring symbolizes our simple beginning, and I cherish that beginning.  - Amy

My husband proposed to me in the same park where he first told me he loved me. It's a pretty famous park in our city, and there was a lot going on there that day. A high school was having their senior prom. There were a lot of people from concerts at near by concert halls and theaters. But the thing that makes the proposal most memorable was that right after he finished getting down on one knee, and right after I said yes, we were accosted by a homeless person asking us for money! - Anna

My husband's proposal was very simple. After an evening event in downtown Annapolis, Maryland (where I was living at the time), we walked down to the City Dock. He proposed by the water. Sailboats were anchored nearby and lights shone on the surface of the water. It was quiet. There was no kneeling and the words were few, but the sentiment was real. Afterward we walked around in quiet excitement, and nine months later we married a few blocks up the street. The area remains one of our favorite places to visit and reminisce. - Julie

In a nutshell, my husband Anthony finagled me into running through the rain to meet him at the chapel on our college campus (Franciscan University) the night before we both headed home for Christmas break, telling me that Adoration was going on there and he thought it'd be a great time to get in a little prayer before we left.  So, I did.  But upon walking through the big double doors, I didn't see Jesus anywhere, only stems of roses and candles lining the aisle towards the front of the chapel.  He led me up that aisle and told me all these wonderful things that went in one ear and out the other because I was so shocked, and then he got down on one knee, asked me to be his forever, and opened wide my tear ducts. - Sheena

The short version of the story (the long version can be found hereis that my husband proposed at the Shrine of St. Thérèse in Royal Oak, Michigan. He wanted to propose in the Adoration chapel, so naturally I wanted to look at every single nook and cranny of the church before we finally made our way to the chapel. I love that he proposed there because we both have a huge devotion to St. Thérèse, so much so that our first daughter's middle name is after this great saint! My ring has five diamonds.  The middle three symbolize the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit, and the outer two symbolize my husband and I, and we are only united through the Trinity. The inside of the ring has a design of vines and branches to remind me of John 15, one of my favorite Bible passages. The full story on the ring can be found here. - Amanda

Dec. 2, 2006: I came home from an 8 hour shift at the bridal store where I worked to my then-boyfriend Matt mom preparing dinner with my mom. I was floored when the table was covered with red rose petals and red and white Hersey Kisses (my mom had been in charge of disposing the green ones from the Christmas bag). I spied a ring box, but said nothing as I went upstairs and changed into a cute dress. After eating homemade lasagna, Matt drove me to the little grass park overlooking Corona Del Mar Beach, where a few months prior we'd stood in the same spot around 4 a.m. and decided to get married (good things CAN happen after 2 a.m!). We looked at his family albums, and he brought the third and final one down from his parents house. At the end I closed it and he told me to open it again. Whoops! I had missed the last page where he had put a picture of us and a note. I thought it was so sweet but I still missed the main event, so he shone the flashlight on the ring that he had taped to the back inside cover and my jaw dropped. He got on one knee and said something neither of us remember, but we are both pretty sure that's when he proposed! My ring has a diamond in the middle with a sapphire on either side. We both love blue and had decided to marry on Sept. 8th, Our Lady's birthday.  He told me the diamond was to represent Mary above the moon and the stars. - Andi

I was sitting on my computer in my apartment my senior year of college, doing some homework. My husband was also there doing homework, but he randomly stopped and sat in the chair directly behind me. And then he pulled out a paper and started singing (which isn’t completely out of the ordinary-- he’d done that before). However, this time the last line was “Will you marry me?” and I just stared at him asking him if he was serious... a few times. Poor Jim had to ask again because I couldn’t believe that just happened!  I’ve always really liked three stone wedding rings because they represent the past, present, and the future, and that is the type of ring Jim chose. - Emily

My husband spent months planning his proposal. Two months into our dating relationship, he began giving me a little gift at every one-month anniversary.  All of those gifts worked together to spell out the proposal on our 7-month anniversary. He proposed at the place where we'd had our first date (a museum), with several more gifts that had special meaning from our relationship. He'd actually been bugging me about the ring for months, asking what I wanted. My answer was only that I wanted a simple, pretty, gold ring and that the engagement ring and wedding ring should be a set. - Bonnie

How about you?  I would LOVE to hear your proposal story in the comments!


Friday, February 5, 2016

Your Marriage As Mission: A Husband & Wife of 15 Years Share Their Best Advice


I look up to Karee of Can We Cana? so much.  She and her husband Manny have weathered major hard times, including brain tumors, in their 15 years of marriage while raising six kids.  They teach pre-Cana and are passionate about encouraging couples to live out the married vocation fully alive, so much so that they wrote a book about it, The Four Keys to Everlasting Love.  I asked her and Manny to share ways to sort through all the advice, solicited and not, that you get bombarded with while planning your wedding, and to offer some wisdom of their own:

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The best advice we got before tying the knot...Before we got married, it seemed like everybody wanted to give us advice. Some of it was good, and some of it was not so good. One of the catchiest – and worst – pieces of advice we heard was “The smallest things cause the biggest fights.” We discovered whenever we were fighting about little things like toothpaste tubes and toilet paper rolls, there was something much bigger lurking in our relationship. We were avoiding a big issue by arguing about a small one.

So, you have to pick and choose whose advice works for you and whose doesn’t. But, from the perspective of fifteen years of happy marriage, here’s the wisest advice our friends and family shared with us early on, and how it helped our relationship:

Make sure you share the same mission.
Manny: Having the same mission is crucial! If you take care to find a mate with whom you share a common, overarching vision, oftentimes the details take care of themselves. I find this to be the case with Karee whether we’re talking about finances, childrearing, or our decision to use Natural Family Planning. Our shared mission is to put God and our family first, and God has never let us down.

Karee: Family and children were always important to Manny. From the beginning, he promised me he would do whatever it took, and work as many jobs as he needed, to provide for me and our children. Six kids later, he’s never broken that promise, sometimes taking four different part-time jobs to support the family without complaint. Sharing the mission of raising a big, beautiful Catholic family together has been a great blessing.

Marriage is a delicate flower, so you have to nurture it.
Manny: My parents’ neighbor Tony gave me this advice. As a seasoned divorce attorney who had managed to stay happily married, he knew what he was talking about. Constant communication is like soil, he said, hugs and kisses are like water, and laughter is like sunshine that every relationship needs in order to thrive. Thinking of marriage as a flower in need of constant care  helps combat the tendency to take it for granted.

Karee: Manny is a much better gardener than I. Since the first begonia I killed as a child, I’ve always despaired of my black thumb. I’m tempted to view people, relationships, and even my own body like machines that shouldn’t need more than annual check-ups and maintenance. Of course, everybody needs more than once-a-year care, so I’m truly grateful for my husband’s nurturing tendencies.

In getting married, you are beginning a great project. But you will struggle.
Manny: My father uttered these words at the reception on our wedding day. Little did I know how true they would be. Before a year had passed, Karee and I dealt with the grief of thinking (mistakenly) that we couldn’t have children, and later, with the joy of expecting our first child. Almost eight months to the day we were married, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had to undergo a major lifesaving operation. Expect to struggle and it won’t catch you by surprise.

Karee: My father-in-law has a strong Spanish accent, so the word “struggle” sounded like “eh-strrrruggle.” His words were unexpected, and totally unforgettable. In the fifteen years of our marriage, Manny has gone through four brain surgeries and three major job changes. I’ve gone through six pregnancies and natural childbirths, and I’ve switched careers from law to journalism to stay-at-home mothering and then back to writing again. A lot of people go through just as many changes after they get married. And change is always difficult, but it can bring great opportunities for growth in faith, strength, and virtue.

Thanks so much, Karee and Manny!  Visit them at their blog, and their book is available for pre-order on Amazon.  The foreword is by Christopher West!

Your turn.  Tell me, what's the best piece of marriage advice you've received, and how do you sift through all the opinions?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Brides Who've Been There: 8 Women Share the Saints Who've Shaped Their Relationships

I'm taking a blogging break to soak up our sweet Lily Grace (and, let's be honest, to keep my head above water through this beautiful newborn chaos), so I asked some of my married friends to contribute in my absence.  Over the next few weeks, they'll be taking over to chat about wedding planning, bridal beauty and style, and sharing stories about their newlywed days.  

For today, I asked these ladies if there's a saint who's taken on a particular significance in their marriage and family lives, and about the stories behind them.

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A favorite saint of mine is St. Helen of the Cross.  Family legend says that I am a direct descendant of her.  I don't know how accurate that is, but I figure that she better be a special saint just in case --I figure St. Helen will claim me as family if I claim her, and who better to have as a patron saint than someone you are (at least in theory) related to!  - Jenn 

Within the past year, Our Lady Undoer of Knots has become a special patron in our marriage.  My husband and I struggled for a time with infertility.  This weighed heavily on both of our hearts, especially with each passing month and each negative pregnancy test.  I knew of the devotion Pope Francis has to Our Lady Undoer of Knots, but I did not know much about the story behind the image or anything like that.  I did, however, know I had always been drawn to the image for the silly reason that I love to crochet, and I just imaged the ribbon in her hands as yarn.  My mother one day recommended that Chris and I pray to Our Lady Undoer of Knots for our infertility.  We learned more about the devotion to her, as well as the history of her image, and then began a novena to her, praying that she would undo any physical knots in our bodies preventing us from getting pregnant.  We went to our doctor and were prepared to begin blood work and other tests.  The cycle after we finished the novena we found out we were pregnant.  I attribute this pregnancy to her intercessory prayers and continue to pray to her for a healthy baby and delivery. - Tiffany 

Saint Dominic is our family patron; we chose him before we were married. I spent a year in a Dominican convent and had a special relationship with him, and we are both planning to become Dominican tertiaries in the near future. We have a big picture of Dominican saints in our living room, the first thing you see when you walk in. - Rachel


St. Thérèse! It is hard to pick a moment or a reason, she's always been a huge intercessor for both my husband and I, long before we met and throughout our entire relationship. We knew from the day we got engaged that if we ever had a daughter, Thérèse would be somewhere in her name to honor this holy woman! - Amanda 

My husband and I are both converts, and my relationship with the saints has grown quite a bit over the past nine years since my conversion. My birthday is on St. Joseph's feast day, so he's definitely a saint we ask for intercession from. Another favorite is St. Margaret of Scotland, whom I actually found out about before my conversion because I wrote a history paper on her husband. He's a slightly obscure Scottish king whom nobody has written books about, so I had to research him by reading about his wife (ironic for the Middle Ages!) and his English contemporaries. Anyway, he and Margaret were known for praying together. Other saints we like include St. Gerard, St. Briget of Sweden, and St. Josemaria Escriva. - Bonnie

We don't really have a particular patron saint, but we are honoring a few of our favorites by naming our kids after them: Seraphia (another name for St. Veronica), Cecilia, and Sebastian. - Sheena

We were married on the vigil of the Feast of the Holy Family, in a church named for St. Joseph.  On our first anniversary, we attended Mass at another church named for St. Joseph, thousands of miles away from where we were married.  We had every intention of making it happen again on our second anniversary, but the weather was terrible that day and we weren't super comfortable driving 30 minutes away to attend Mass in the storm.  Hopefully we can get back on track for our third anniversary this year!  I guess I got side tracked there.  The Feast of the Holy Family speaks to me because of the aforementioned details, but also because I feel called for us to imitate the holy family in our home, the domestic church.  I long for raising a family with Alex, and recognize the family is the root of Christianity in our society.  It all starts at home. - Lauren

St. Patrick, patron saint of Evangelization. Our friend Danielle sent us saints that she had picked for us to be our special saint for the year, and, well, Patrick stuck! We also always ask for St. Francis and St. Joseph to intercede for us because the are the patrons of the school our kids have attended. - Andi


What about you?  I'd love to hear about the saints you and your love have a special devotion to!  And, if you missed 'em the first time around, a few past posts on my own favorite saints, and a sweet way to incorporate your devotions into your wedding:








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