Friday, June 6, 2014

Still A Bride

Source, anyone?  Help!
We spent the better part of last week in Ohio for our friends Ed and Maile's wedding, a celebration that, in Andrew's words (I just can't improve upon 'em), was "the perfect mix of transcendent and baller."  Amen to that.  I think I mentioned last week that this was the eleventh wedding we've been to together, and the first with a baby along.

You guys, Aaron was such a champ all trip long, sleeping through most of an 8-hour car ride, staying calmish enough for me take care of other criers during an insane night of my sister-and-law and I watching 5 babies during the bachelor and bachelorette festivities, and and letting us bounce him all over the dance floor.  He finally lost it during the last two hours or so of the trip home and squalled for that whole leg, but I really can't complain.

Anyway, I expected going to a wedding with a baby would have different demands than going to a wedding without one, but something else came up in my heart this weekend, too, that I didn't expect.  It started at the rehearsal.  I was sitting there in this gorgeous basilica, sobbing my eyes out at the beauty of it all as I watched our friends practicing saying their vows (you can laugh, I don't mind), when I started feeling the sense that I was so far removed from being a bride.  Simply put, I didn't feel like one anymore.  It's been three years now since my wedding, and the feeling of newness and possibility seemed foreign to me.

It isn't that celebrating with Ed and Maile made me jealous.  I don't want all the attention surrounding me again or another wedding day for myself.  I think, thought, that motherhood has been such a sea change, one that seems like an entirely new version of me, that how I was when I first got married seems sort of like a lost part of who I am.  Don't get me wrong; being Aaron's mama is one of the greatest gifts of my life and I totally get that your life doesn't stop and become complete with marriage; it continues to grow and change as your family does, and that's so good.  It does feel like such a different life now--showering maybe three times a week, staying up all hours of the night, and having such little time to really be alone and present with Andrew makes it a little hard to remember the more sexy, carefree days of nighttime walks, elaborate weekend breakfasts, hopping in the car to visit faraway friends, and lazing the day away reading on a blanket outside.

I felt torn.  I want this life, this way of living my vocation, that's before me right now: motherhood and finding joy in its sacrifice.  But I also felt such a bittersweet sense that part of my old identity (and not just the fun trappings of it I just listed, but the actual essence of it), as just a wife and maybe even as a newlywed, was gone.  Even when a change is welcome and good and sanctifying, it can be hard feeling like it came at the cost of a part of yourself, yeah?

It's amazing, the graces that pour down during a nuptial Mass.  The new husband and wife receive them to the full, and in their receiving, I'm convinced that just being in the presence of such tremendous grace works on the hearts of everyone in attendance, too.  On our friends' wedding day, I'm happy to say that the funk I'd been feeling seemed to lift.  As I prayed before the Mass, I started feeling like bride and mother, newlywed and just regular wed, aren't either-ors.  I'm still working all this out in my heart, but two things have put me on a path to peace.

The first is the words of a father of five whom I met on our trip.  Emily, a reader, works at the Theology of the Body education center Ruah Woods and invited me to come visit the offices for the morning.  This man and I started talking about his family, and when I asked if I could see a photo of his five kids, he told me he didn't have one in his office, "but here's a picture of my bride."  He said it with such love and pride.  I forgot about it until I was going through my whole crisis on the wedding day, but as I remembered, I felt so happy and in awe, thinking how beautiful it is for a man so fully immersed in parenthood to still see his wife in that way, not as the exact same woman he married, but as the woman he's grown more in love with as each new change has taken place in their lives.

The second thing is the photo at the top of this post.  I shared it on Facebook a couple weeks ago and it was one of the most-liked posts I ever put up, so I get the feeling there must be something universal about it.  Leave it to Edith Stein to have already stated the big revelation I had, that bride and mother aren't separate entities--they're two parts of our entire identity as women, whether married or consecrated, with or without children.  I'm glad to be reminded.

So tell me…am I crazy?  Have any of you felt this way?  Also, let it be said that I know biological motherhood isn't the only way a woman might feel a departure from her identity as a bride; I imagine infertility or loss could create a similar feeling.  I'm inviting you to share what you're thinking and would love to know!





Thursday, June 5, 2014

5 Lessons: Guesting with Arleen Spenceley

Catching up after last week's whirlwind of a wedding week in Ohio…I shared this on Captive the Heart's Facebook page already, but if you missed it, here's Andrew's and my contribution to Arleen Spenceley's marriage advice series!  Here's a sampling; click on, clicker, if you want to read about our laughable first fight, how we see the best in each other, and how becoming parents changed us.
I once dated a guy who was sort of, um, sensitive. He felt most loved by words of affirmation, which is perfectly legitimate, yet pride played a role in his feeling affirmed. Often, for instance, he didn’t just want for me to tell him nice things; he wanted others to notice whenever I told him nice things and insisted I do it within their earshot. He didn’t just want to hold hands; he wanted everyone to see us holding hands so we could declare our dating status. I felt insincere doing loving things only for appearances’ sake, and frustrated that he couldn’t accept my affirmation internally, rather than in front of an audience. This battle over compliments and validation became one of our most frequent fights, and more than once we found ourselves shooting death glares across the table and furiously whispering to each other (or texting each other) in the presence of our friends. Awkward to the max.

Read the rest here!  Thanks again, Arleen, for featuring us!

Friday, May 23, 2014

7 Quick Takes, Volume 32

{story of a soul, condensed}

Visit Jen at Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes!

{1} We're off to Cincinnati next week for the wedding of one of Andrew's best, oldest friends!  He and his gorgeous bride are getting married in a cathedral and holding their reception in a barn.  But you know, a nice, Pinteresty looking barn.  This will be Andrew's and my eleventh (!) wedding together, but most of our close friends got married in the same two year or so span, so we haven't been to some good ol' nuptials for a while now.  I am so, so excited to celebrate their love!

{2} I know nothing about Cincinnati aside from the fact that the Bengals exist and that some sort of chili over spaghetti thing exists.  So, any recommendations for me?  Andrew's brother and his family will be along, too, and my sister-in-law are planning a trip to the Cincy Zoo with our babies while the boys do bachelor camping things.  What else should we put on our to-do list?  Talk to me about food and I'll consider this trip golden before it even starts.

{3} Have you seen Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas' new Book Club series?  It basically involves her and her readers having a book discussion via a Facebook event and comments (they're doing Brideshead Revisited next week, and the discussion has already started and it's awesome--I've tried reading that sucker three times and still haven't gotten through it, but if you're one of the enlightened who found it more readable than I, go for it).  I love the idea of a live discussion!  So, Haley if you're reading this, I fully admit to copping your idea, though with a different subject.  Would any of you be interested with something similar?  I've talked about plenty of books on Catholic marriage and womanhood on this blog, but it might be fun to just pick a topic and do a chat, yes?  Let me know what you think!

{4} About a month after sending in the manuscript for my upcoming book, I got back the first round of edits this week!  It's an awesome feeling knowing my book baby is that much closer to print, though I'm not sure yet about the exact timeline.  I'm sure I'll be cranking up the obnoxious reminders about it as the publication gets closer (and I can't wait to reveal the title soon!), but for now, I'd so appreciate your prayers for wisdom and clarity of mind as I work through the content over the next month.

{5} That said, who better to give their input on a book about Catholic marriage than the intended audience of this here blog?  If you're engaged, is there any untapped area of wedding planning, either spiritual or practical, that you think deserves attention in a book?  And if you're married, what part of planning your wedding was the toughest to figure out, i.e, what do you wish you'd had more information on?  I'm aiming to include checklists and worksheets for brides to stay organized along with the preparation stuff, so speak up!  Tell me what would be the most beneficial, 'cause I aim to help.

{6} I wrote about love song covers earlier this week--I'm dying to know: what's your favorite love song (and if a cover version exists, I'd love to hear about it!)?

{7} Obligatory baby photos wherein Aaron shows off his latest hobbies, standing (seriously, he could be entertained alllll day just by us holding his arms while he pulls himself up and semi-walks--now you know how I spend all day), playing in the piles of clothes that, well, pile up, and nomming on avocados:




Enjoy the weekend!  I won't be blogging next week, but you can follow the Ohio adventures on Instagram and keep up with the articles and pretty stuff I find on Facebook!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Five Favorites: Love Song Covers

Linking up with Hallie!

The little girl I nanny for has a love for me after about 5 months together, I think, but understandably, she straight up bellows when I show up each morning because she knows it means her mama's about to disappear.  We recently attempted a new maneuver that I'm calling in my head Dance Off Hand Off (alternate name suggestions welcome), where her mom puts on music and holds her while we all dance around the kitchen, and as we get down she passes her to me and sneaks away as I ever so subtly spin the babe in the opposite direction.  So far so peaceful.

The tune by which the magic happens has been a reggae cover of the song "I Say a Little Prayer For You" from the soundtrack to My Best Friend's Wedding, which, I swear, has like four versions of that song on it.  I know sometimes only the orig will do, but I really like covers.  Something about hearing a fresh, lesser-known take on an old, well-known song is so intriguing to me.  And as far as wedding songs go, first dances especially, I think going with a cover can be an inspired choice.

I love me some Boyce Avenue as much as the next girl, but here, for your consideration, five other love song covers.


1. In Your Eyes: No contest, you guys.  This is my favorite song, hands down.  The vulnerability ("Love, I get so lost sometimes"), the self-gift ("I reach out from the inside"), the fulfillment of a soul's longing (the whole dang chorus)…it stirs me so good.  Andrew thinks the original Peter Gabriel version sounds like The Lion King, and maybe he has a point (one I don't see a problem with!).  He approves of this understated acoustic version by Matt Ketteman and Cameron Mizell.  Listen to it on Spotify here.

2. Let's Stay Together: I first encountered Obidiah Parker by his mellow redo of "Hey Ya."  Inspired, my friend played it on guitar during dinner with my roommate and I, and it somehow resulted in us dancing around the apartment so enthusiastically, I guess, that the downstairs neighbor banged on the ceiling.  Maybe it wasn't such a mellow cover after all.  Anyway, he also has his own rendition of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together."  At the risk of disrespecting a classic, I think I like this one more, if only because the words sound a little clearer (Al Green: marblemouth?) and because the melody just sounds so great.  Have a listen:



3. Crazy In Love: Classic (sidenote: I'm illiterate…is Bey pronounced "Bee?"  Sorry, Beyonce).  This vintage take by Emeli Sande from The Great Gatsby soundtrack would fit in perfectly for your reception cocktail hour, in my opinion.  Yes?



4. Dance Me to the End of Love: I heard this song for the first time back in high school, thanks to a friend who introduced me to Leonard Cohen, the musician who also wrote "Hallelujah."  "Dance Me to the End of Love" was gorgeously haunting and poetic and sexy, but despite the beautiful lyrics I thought Leonard sounded a little, um, creepy.  I love the whispered harmonies in this version by the Civil Wars so much.


5. Is This Love: One time in the car, my chastity speaking partner and I were talking about our parents' wedding songs.  After I serenaded him with my most expressive attempt at my mom and dad's ultracheesy 80s power ballad, "Just You and I," he played me Bob Marley's "Is This Love," which his parents danced to.  So much cooler (sorry, parents, if you're reading this), and it was that song that took me from a casual to more-widely-listened Marley fan.  Corinne Bailey Rae takes the reggae jam and turns it into a classy, soulful affair.  Beauty.


Your turn!  Any other romantic covers I should know about?  Share 'em in the comments, and tell me your favorite love song!

P.S.  5 1/2: I wrote about Adele's incredible cover of Bob Dylan's "To Make You Feel My Love" here!

P.P.S. Like the sassy new Pinterest feed on the sidebar?  Hover over the images to see the pins, and follow me here.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Love Notes: Men and Mary

{small ways to show great love}

 from my Insta
When I was in high school, I'd spend the time before going to sleep ticking off on my fingers the qualities I wanted to find in my future husband: I hoped he'd be, in no particular order, funny, musical, a reader, from a big family, and naturally, handsome.  As time passed and my spiritual life flourished, my list started changing.  Actually, I still prayed for all those things, but meeting and marrying a man of deep faith pushed things like "able to make me laugh" from the top spots on the list.  Specifically, I hoped that my husband would have a relationship with Our Lady.

Suffice it to say I'm blessed beyond measure to have found all these qualities and more in Andrew.  When we started dating, he told me how starting to do a daily Rosary had brought order and peace to his life at a time when he knew he was wandering from the path of virtue and true masculinity he so deeply strove for.  Nighttime Rosary walks around our college campus quickly became a ritual we loved, and I can so clearly remember the clarity I sensed with our prayer.  Within a few months, we talked together about feeling such a healing from past sins against chastity and such a certainty and purity in the start of our relationship.  Eventually, it was after a Rosary walk that Andrew asked me to be his wife.  We chose a line from the Memorare, "before thee we kneel," for the inscription in our wedding rings.

To me, there is nothing more attractive, more admirable, and more masculine than a man in love with the Blessed Mother.  It seems easy sometimes to think of Mary as pious and quiet--the image of a docile woman--what with all the statues of her serenely holding baby lambs and things.  A friend of mine has told me before that as a man, it's not the piety and docility that draw him in.  "Mary can be a badass," he said (pardon the language; I just felt like I had to say it for the full effect).  Think the Battle of Lepanto.  Her love can be stern at times, even to Jesus at Cana, yet like any mother, she knows so well what each of her children's hearts needs at different times.  I myself think it's also important to consider her fullness of humanity and what I like to think must have been a rich emotional life: a pure-hearted passion for her husband, an abiding love for her son, and an emptying to the depths of her being at the foot of the Cross.  She is so alive, and can truly show a man how to love his bride, by loving her and imploring her intercession.

St. Louis de Montfort described devotion to Mary as being "Our Lady's slave," an image that's understandably uncomfortable across 400 years and an entirely different culture.  When I first heard it my freshman year of college, I was kind of freaked out, honestly--I was just starting to learn more about the faith and was considering Marian consecration.  To discover that Mary wanted to chain me to her for eternity didn't exactly seem loving, let alone pleasant.

I'm glad I heard out the explanation of the language, and am grateful for the grace of developing a devotion to her.  Now, when I think of being chained to Our Lady, I don't think of it as a burden, or a literal ball and chain.  Instead, it brings me deep comfort to know I'm forever tethered to her.  It's impossible for her to let me go, even if I try; by grace alone, she's always pulling me back to her and into a deeper love for her son.

That said, how can you cultivate a deeper devotion to Mary, especially during this, her month?  Make a habit of praying the rosary with your fiancĂ© or husband each time you're together, even if it's just one decade.  Hang an image or icon in your home.  Do something celebratory, like a really nice dessert, on Marian feast days (I really want to explore living liturgically!).  And, consider consecrating yourself to her as a couple.  I made my consecration 7 years ago, and Andrew did it with his family when he was really young, and we're considering renewing them together for our anniversary in a couple months (you can read about my consecration experience here, and about a fantastic consecration preparation here).

What about you?  Tell me about your experiences with inviting Our Lady into your prayer life and into your relationship!  Do you have any Marian traditions?  Any stories about how she's shaped your love story or yours or your fiancĂ©'s lives?  I'm all ears!


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