Friday, September 28, 2012

Love Notes: Dates and A Playlist for Fall


Christmas notwithstanding, I personally think this really is the most wonderful time of the year!  Sleeping with the windows open, feeling the cold air around me as I'm snuggled under blankets, consuming pumpkin in as many ways as possible, and driving past the fire-colored trees atop the mountains (they remind me of when Belle is running down the hill, singing, in Beauty and the Beast!) are some of my favorite feelings.  In celebration of crisp, crunchy-leafed Fall, I made you a playlist!  You already know how much I love music full of longing and hopeful brokenness.  I think it's even better when it's paired with plenty of slow strings, harmonies, and a briskness in the air.  Share it with your love while you play board games by candlelight or wrap up in a blanket to look at the stars and drink cider.

While I'm at it, may I suggest to you some of my favorite Fall dates?  Leaf jumping, homemade pumpkin spice lattes, hiking and stepping on leaves, apple picking, bread baking, finding your way through a corn maze, and a bike ride to the Farmers Market are all perfect in my book.  As I wrote this, I noticed most of these activities have to do with food and the outdoors.  There are far worse things.

What songs remind you of Fall, and how are you two celebrating the glory?

PS-  Stephanie and Michael are getting married tomorrow!  Join me in interceding for them, won't you?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Economy of Salvation: Make It Personal

{creative ways to save your pennies on the most expensive day of your life}

Blessed John Paul II said, "a person is an entity of a sort to which the only proper and adequate way to relate is love."  I first came across these words, from Love and Responsibility during my days as a Philosophy minor and was so drawn in by his person-centered approach to what matters; it's such a truthful, countercultural notion in a world where things are often valued more than persons and when people are more often used than loved.  It wasn't until after those classes, spending a year as a chastity speaker and doing more reading of my own, that I've realized how much fruit the Pope's views have borne in my life and my outlook.  I've noticed that the lens through which I see the world is most clearly is that of the dignity and uniqueness of the human person, especially in regard to sex and love.

I'm digressing, but my point is, on your wedding day and every day, you, wonderful unrepeatable you, and your fiance, wonderful repeatable him, should be celebrated big time.  It's so much fun to browse through Pinterest and bridal magazines, seeing all the amazing crafts, decorations, and dessert displays you can whip up, but it's also overwhelming in the sense that it can be hard figuring out what's actually you (or you two), rather than just something fun to dream about.  You know?

And so, I'd like to suggest to you a way to make your day more yours, more personal, and save some money in the process: what do you collect?  I think it'd be so special to incorporate your collections into your reception decor!  Float flowers in your grandma's teacups, turn corks from your empty wine bottles into placecard holders, put your pretty books on display...I was inspired by these ideas!

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These books are decorated with new, wedding-related covers.  It'd be so simple to design the spines in your wedding colors or with titles meaningful to the two of you! 
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Cupcakes served in teacups.  Adorable.

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Do you save wine bottles like me, hoping to find a use for them?  I love these simply painted and embellished ones!  You could even use unopened bottles to serve to each table.

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I'm in love with this perfect seashell bouquet!  Such a pretty, unique way to turn your collection into a sweet keepsake.


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OK, maybe no one actually collects leaves on her own.  But, theoretically you could collect some for a Fall wedding, if only to gorgeously letter your guests' names on them for escort cards!

I'm so curious: what kinds of treasures do you collect?


Monday, September 24, 2012

Ora Pro Nobis: A Thank You to St. Raphael




This Saturday is the Feast of the Archangels, Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael.  Of course, St. Michael defeated Satan and gets his own prayer, and St. Gabriel played a pretty major role in the Annunciation, but I always thought St. Raphael got a little shafted.  I mean, I never even heard of him until college.  Maybe the fact that he seems to be the least-known archangel, and maybe isn't as busy as the other two, is why he had so much time to intercede for me over the years.  Seriously!

The book of Tobit tells the story of Sarah, a young woman who's been married seven times.  Only each time, her new husband has died on their wedding night (can you even imagine what that would feel like?!).  Thanks to Old Testament laws and arrangements that I admit I don't fully understand, Tobiah is the next, most worthy man to make Sarah his bride, and thanks to Raphael's guidance, falls in love and is told he, unlike the other men, is truly worthy of this courageous, beautiful, holy woman.  He wants to marry her, but obviously he's terrified.  On the day of their wedding, Sarah's father's already started digging the grave!  That night, though, something different happens.  I'll let the Scriptures take it from here:
When Sarah's parents left the bedroom and closed the door behind them, Tobiah
rose from the bed and said to his wife, "My sister, come, let us pray and beg our Lord
to grant us mercy and protection."

She got up, and they started to pray and beg that they might be protected.  He
began with these words:

"Blessed are you, O God of our ancestors;
blessed be your name forever and ever!
Let the heavens and all your creation bless you forever.

You made Adam, and you made his wife Eve
to be his helper and support;
and from these two the human race has come.
You said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone;
let us make him a helper like himself.'

Now, not with lust,
but with fidelity I take this kinswoman as my wife.
Send down your mercy on me and on her,
and grant that we may grow old together.
Bless us with children."

They said together, "Amen, amen!"

Then they went to bed for the night.
(Tobit 8:4-9, NAB)

I love the meaning of this story for so many reasons.  It lets you believe that lust can be slain, that love does give life, and that there are good men willing to die for love of their brides.  And, it's because of Tobiah and Sarah that the angel Raphael is traditionally known, among other causes, as the patron of happy meetings.  In other words, he's basically a patron of husband-hunting!  I kid--it's not that you should be constantly be on the prowl, adding his last name to your favorite baby names every time you meet someone Catholic and adorable (who hasn't fallen into that trap?), but I've come to trust and value his intercession so, so deeply.

When I was 18, I'd been writing letters to my future husband for a while already.  Around Valentine's Day that year, I stumbled across an article from Zenit, a news publication from the Vatican, about a prayer to St. Raphael that had helped dozens of people meet their spouses.  I learned about the story from Tobit for the first time and started reading tons of love stories from a link in the article.  Honestly, I was pretty skeptical.  It all seemed superstitious to me. But, for whatever reason, I was moved to write down the prayer and began saying it every day, asking Raphael's intercession for me to meet my husband when the time was right.  Those words have seen me through so much loneliness and so much incredible joy.  There were days I came to him in tears of tremendous frustration, begging him to help me find love, days after the end of my first serious relationship when his intercession bore peace and clarity, and days of thanksgiving when Andrew and I started dating, as I barely dared to trust the feeling in my heart that this was it.

I continued asking for Raphael's prayers long after I became certain whom I would marry, asking him to prepare us well for our life together, and began adding my friends to the prayer.  It's funny--for months, I thought my best friend would hit it off perfectly with one of Andrew's close friends.  I named them each time I said the prayer.  As the Lord would have it, they did both find the ones for them, but not in each other.  She's getting married next month, and he's madly in love with a radiantly beautiful violinist.  This is real!  I can't make this up, because I didn't--it's all thanks to God and what he's made for them.  There are plenty of saints whom I love and pray to often, but I feel the closest affinity for Raphael.  I am eternally thankful; his prayers have bestowed on me such a beautiful, unearned gift in Andrew.  I marvel so often: how else but through my small prayer and immense amounts of grace could I have the amazing fortune of being loved by someone who's everything to me, in ways I never even imagined I wanted?

If you're reading this and haven't met your husband yet (or maybe you have, and just don't know it!), find peaceful strength in this prayer.  Bring your hope, your optimism, your frustration, and your questions.  Bring everything right to the foot of the Cross.

Saint Raphael, you were sent by God to guide young Tobias in finding a good and virtuous spouse.  Please guide _________ (me, my future husband, whoever else you're praying for and their future spouses...) in this important decision which will affect my/his/her entire future.  You not only guided Tobias in finding a wife, you gave him instructions which should be foremost in every Christian marriage: "Pray together before making important decisions." 

Amen.


Friday, September 21, 2012

7 Quick Takes, Volume 4

{story of a soul, condensed}

A few pieces of my life lately...visit Jennifer's blog, Conversion Diary, to read more Quick Takes!

via Instagram
{1} These are all my pants and shorts.  On one level, I find joy in the fact that I can arrange them in rainbow order and dress myself in orange sailboats on days when nothing else is bright enough to match my mood (Andrew teases me relentlessly).  But, on the other, seeing them all lined up like this made me ask myself if anyone actually needs pants in every color of the rainbow.  I'm trying to detach.  My spending fast continues...

{2} It's kind of unbelievable that in nearly three years, neither my husband nor I have been sick around each other.  That streak had to come to an end sometime...last weekend was my first encounter with a sick Andrew.  Fever, chills, sore muscles, sore throat, the whole nine.  I've been surprised by how little his germs matter to me when it comes to spending time together!  I'd much rather be near him, taking care of him and maybe getting a little sick myself, than keep my distance and miss out on opportunities to love him.  It's definitely not my most natural inclination, but it's such a nice feeling not to have "his and hers" type responsibilities, and just do what's needed for love of the other person.  Andrew is so reluctant to let me sacrifice sometimes--once, he actually got "accept your wife's loving help" as a penance!  I love him for his selflessness, but I enjoy being able to help him just as much!

{3} Do you ever get lost by accident in a black hole of other people's blogs, then crawl out after a whole afternoon of wishing yours was prettier, cleaner, or more glamorous?  I adore Sarah Tolzmann's design blog Note to Self.  This girl is mega talented at graphic design and has amazing taste in fashion and art.  So, imagine my surprise and admiration at this post, in which Sarah points out how unrealistic, if fun, the blogging can be.  I love her humility as she says that being genuine is way more important than being flawless--it can definitely be a temptation to only portray your life in a certain flattering way when you're using social media.  Props to her!  She reminded me that comparison is a thief--you can't let it steal your originality or your peace.

{4} This.

{5} Did you catch my post about A Severe Mercy a few weeks ago?  I just happened upon this reflection on humble submission and leadership between a husband and wife, using Sheldon and Davy Vanauken's amazingly loving example.  The Personalist Project is a nonprofit dedicated to sharing the dignity of the human person that was introduced to me by some friends in my temporary home near Philadelphia.  Their blog is incredible--I'm a huge philosophy dork who's most drawn to discussions of love, sexuality, and human dignity, and the articles here always capture my interest.  Read it and tell me what you think!

via Love, Jenna
{6} I have a new obsession.  For months, I've been inspired by nontraditional calligraphy that looks more obviously handwritten than its uniform, formal counterparts, but as much as I love to doodle, I struggle.  I found this simple tutorial to hold me over until I venture into the world of actual ink and brushes.  Here's to new hobbies!  What is it you're dying to learn?

{7} I have made spaghetti squash twice in my life.  The first time, I accidentally food-poisoned myself and all my friends.  Oops.  The second time was the other night, and I'm happy to report that no one got sick (well, my husband was already sick, so...)!  Our grocery store had a huge sale on three kinds of squash, so I bought one of each and have been loving the new variety of veggies that come with Fall.  This kind is so easy to just bake in the oven until it's soft, when you can use a fork to shred it into spaghetti-style strands.  We ate ours with marinara, garlic, olive oil, and actual olives.  So good!  This is my favorite sauce recipe...it's a little sweet, thanks to carrots and celery (don't worry, the pieces are tiny), completely ungreasy, and sneaks in an extra serving of vegetables.  It was delish on the squash, but every time I make it I just sit there eating the sauce straight out of a bowl!  Thank you, Giada.

Tell me about your weekend plans; I'd love to know what you're up to! 


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

My Spirit Rejoices: It Is Well With My Soul and I Only Want to Be With You

{sweet sounds for your Mass and reception}

I try hard not to use this blog as a chance to just blabber on about myself all the time, but you'll have to forgive me today.  Both of these songs come with a story.

Story Number One: Two years ago, I had the gift of seeing this amazing woman speak at a work Christmas party.  Gianna Jessen is a survivor of a saline abortion, a merciful daughter who's forgiven her birth mother for the choice she made, a fierce speaker who honestly tells her story, and above all, a humble daughter of God, just wanting divine and earthly romance like the rest of us.  Truly, I'll never forget the talk she gave on that night two Decembers ago.  She told the story of her adoptive mama, Penny, who loved and affirmed her unconditionally, the longings she has for the love a man (I was so, so struck by her honesty), and the cry of the culture for men and women to hold each other up.  Men, she said, be a Braveheart, not a coward.  Ladies, she said, settle for nothing less (actually, she said, "No weasels").  I was overcome with gratitude for having found that kind of love.

Listening to Gianna in all her fearless vulnerability, her naked soul so plainly before the entire room, my heart was overwhelmed.  I felt full to the brim.  Overflowing, actually.  All that feeling had to get out of me somehow, so of course I started crying.  It was a strange brew of tears--tears of admiration for her strength, sorrow for her ache, joy for her joy, and pure awe at how she was all at once so normal and so extraordinary, not because of what she'd been through, but because of who she was.

Toward the end of her talk, Gianna opened her mouth to sing.  No instruments or extra frills, just her.  Her voice was so clear and earnest, and I remember thinking that I'd rarely experienced such silence as there was in the room while she sang.  It took my breath away, and I decided right then that It Is Well With My Soul must be one of the most unflinchingly beautiful songs ever conceived.  I think you can see why it'd be a wondrous addition to any wedding Mass.

Listen here--this is Gianna singing!  You'll die.



Story Number Two: After our freshman year, my best friend transferred from our college, where we spent so many hours squeezing into her top bunk for naps, eating ice cream out of the carton, and praying in the huge, gorgeous chapel in the dark (We loved being in there at night!  One of my unhappiest real-world discoveries was that when you're not on a college campus, you can rarely find a chapel that's unlocked at any hour).  The first time I visited her at her new school, I encountered the swing dancing aspect of young Catholic culture for the first time.  These people did not mess around.  I swooned, but of course I had no idea what I was doing.  Luckily, I learned pretty quickly that a talented boy can do most of the work for you; you just spin in the direction he guides you.

Anyway, another thing I learned pretty quickly was that a cute boy who can also dance is a recipe for an immediate crush.  I spent most of the evening dancing with Teresa's friend and basically left planning our wedding (hello, emotional chastity), which brings me to this song.  Dusty Springfield's I Only Want To Be With You is a perfect oldie: a super catchy tune, big brassy horns, and a wonderful, just-fell-in-love sensibility.  It contains the great lines,

You stopped and smiled at me
And asked if I cared to dance
I fell into your open arms
And I didn't stand a chance

The way my sophomore self saw it, if I married this boy this would be the perfect wedding song, a little wink and nod to the first time we met.  In hindsight, yes, that could've been adorable.  But then I never would have met and fallen for my sweet Andrew.  He's not much for swing, but he does dip me like nobody's business and has answered every hope of my heart.  So I'd say I made out pretty well, wouldn't you?

Listen to the song here!


And, here's a bonus: a slower, jazzier version I adore (I don't really know why the video is a picture of a security light, but hey).  Enjoy.





Monday, September 17, 2012

Rite Resources: Shabby Apple

 If I had to guess, I'd venture that after saying yes to your dress, finding the exactly right outfit for your bridesmaids is pretty high on your priority list.  It can be a tall order: festive, affordable, modest, in the right color and vibe...this is serious business.  I remember feeling over and underwhelmed all at once--there are so many choices out there, but nothing jumped out at me for a while.  I had a clear picture of what I wanted, but it was that matter of finding something real to match what was in my head, you know?  Eventually,  I found the perfect summer sundresses, in the navy and white seersucker of my dreams, thanks to an adorable Etsy shop.

So anyway, allow me to humbly introduce to you a fantastic source for sweet, classy dresses that suit so many wedding styles.  Shabby Apple (there's a link on the sidebar, too!) understands that women are beautiful because of who they are, not because of how skinny they are or how much of their bodies they reveal.  I love their take on fashion: according to their site, they're after "a return to what dresses were always meant to be," as in, dresses with no need for added straps, length, or cardigans for modesty's sake.  Shabby Apple wants to meet "a need to make women feel feminine and beautiful for what they wear, not what they bare."  Seriously, does it get any better?  Their dresses are priced slightly less than most dresses you'll find from bridal vendors, and I think the huge array of choices makes it easy to suit almost any wedding style.  Elegant, vintage, preppy...it's all here!  The only hard part is making a decision.  I'm so excited to wear one of their dresses (which, sadly, I discovered is no longer available), a cap-sleeved little black dress with a full skirt and layers of delicate lace, for my best friend Beth's wedding next month!  Here are a few of my faves!

Love, love, love the mix of blues and the curvy shapes--this dress looks incredibly flattering and classy, doesn't it?

Vintage-style scallops and a perfect Fall color?  Yes, please!

Navy blue and pleats...a dress after my own heart.

Aren't these flower appliques so, so pretty? 
Such a classy, retro look.  I want to jet off to a resort and dip my toes in the pool while wearing this dress and drinking something that comes with an umbrella.
This is a skirt, not a dress, but I think it'd such a festive, lighthearted  match for a dark, fitted top.  And what girl doesn't like separates she can wear again?
This one is my very favorite!  Swooning over the fresh orange shade, the paisley, and the ballgown silhouette.
Visit Shabby Apple and tell me what dress you like best!  Have you found the perfect bridesmaids' dresses yet?




Friday, September 14, 2012

D I Y: You're Such a Card-- A Make Your Own Placecards Tutorial


Aside from photos and favors, one of my favorite wedding souveniers is the escort card you get with your name and table on it.  I have a little collection now, and I love remembering each celebration, almost as much as I love the fact that half of them have my maiden name and the other half have my married name!
You can order escort cards pretty easily from your stationer (you know, the people who do your invitations and other paper materials), or buy plain cards from party stores, but for a custom touch and, if you want, a pop of color, why not make your own?  Microsoft Word makes it super easy:


I made a guide for myself by drawing a rectangle with a light gray dashed outline.  It'll act as a dotted line when you're cutting out your cards.


Draw a shape in the bottom half of the dotted rectangle and center it.  You can go classic with black and white, but as long as your DIY-ing these guys, I vote for using your wedding colors!


Group the rectangle guide and the shape you just drew into a single unit (click on one, then hold down the Shift key and click the other, then right click and select "group").  Then, copy the new grouped shape and paste it in two columns until it fills the page.  The size of mine made 8 cards per page, leaving plenty of room to cut them out without wasting too much space.


Draw a text box near the bottom of the border (don't worry, you can move it exactly where you want later).  In the formatting menu, choose "No Fill" and "No Outline," which lets you position your text without obscuring the border.  Type in whatever you want!  Your names, the table number, or, to add some charm, whimsical wedding-themed words.  Mine say woohoo, yippee, Amen, xoxo, glory, cheers, rejoice, and twirl.

Easy, right?  Now, just print out your escort cards on cardstock, cut them out along the dotted lines, and fold them in half.  If only determining the actual seating assignments were this simple.

I've seen tons of adorable escort card ideas on Pinterest and wedding blogs, from clothespins to bookmarks to pinwheels to classic fold-over cards like these.  I'd love to know--how are you doing yours?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Inspired: Get Your Kicks

{wedding candy}

Our feet!  Natalie Franke Photography
Judging by all the super cute choices I've seen at my friend's weddings lately, gone are the days of clunky white bridal shoes, which I think is a great thing on so many levels.  Satiny white heels are so not easy to wear a second time, but what's more, it can be much cheaper to buy outside of a bridal shop, depending which route you choose, and shoes are such a fun way to add a little something extra to your ensemble!  Just because they'll be hidden beneath your dress for most of the day doesn't mean they don't matter, and it's definitely nice to capture a few foot shots on camera!  Here are my picks for a Fall or Winter wedding.  You can invest in a special pair you'll wear for years (I love those orange ballet flats!), sport cute and practical boots for cooler, wetter weather, play with patterns, add some sparkle, or draw from your wedding colors.  And of course, they'd make a lovely something blue!

1. Nordstrom  2. Urban Outfitters  3. Amazon  4. H&M  5. Sperry Top-Sider  6. Zappo's  7. Old Navy  8. J. Crew  9. Nordstrom  10. Target  11. Hunter

Do you have your wedding shoes picked out yet?  Which of these pairs is your favorite?

Oh, and since it may never come up again, I would just like to take this opportunity to say that I once participated in a chastity skit where newlyweds give each other a shoebox on their wedding night.  One box has a pristine, never-worn pair of white sneakers inside, and the other, well, stinks.  I think the symbolism is obvious, and ridiculous, here.  But hey, you can always start over, and if the shoe fits...



Monday, September 10, 2012

Cheers! Here's to Love



Saturday, my sweet grandparents celebrated 55 years of marriage!  Through six kids, plenty of vacations and hospital visits, tons of hilarious fashions, and now 17 grandchildren and 2 great-grandbabies, they have stood by each other so fiercely.  They eloped very shortly after they met, my grandma in a red dress.  There's only one picture that captured that start of a life.  They tease each other relentlessly and love to go for long afternoon drives.  No matter what she's cooking, he'll say, "that's one of my favorites."

I can hardly think of two people more in love.

A few years ago, for their 50th anniversary, my dad and his brothers and sisters threw a huge surprise party for them, made all the more special since they'd never had a wedding reception.  They shared an official first dance, though it was another in the series of many, many dances they've danced through the years, and cut their very own wedding cake.  I'm thankful beyond words to have grown up surrounded by their love, one that speaks to a holy marriage and to never going through heartache alone.  Happy Anniversary, OG and Poppy!


Friday, September 7, 2012

7 Quick Takes, Volume 3

{story of a soul, condensed}

A few pieces of my life lately...visit Jennifer's blog, Conversion Diary, to read more Quick Takes!

via Instagram

{1} One thing I often miss about my year of service after college, spent gallivanting all over Philadelphia, New York, and Miami, is the opportunity to visit church after beautiful church.  Of course, the Eucharist is the Eucharist no matter where you go, but there's something extra special about encountering Jesus in a new-to-you space that just surrounds you with the sights, sounds, and smells of something sacred.  We drove to a cathedral fairly close to us last Sunday, one we visited once last year around Christmas.  The beauty of the chapel, the homily, and the feeling of being a pilrgim, if only for the morning, was like water on my soul.  Medicine.  Isn't it gorgeous?

{2} I've just discovered Pugly Pixel, and it's been nothing but love at first click.  Katrina, the girl behind this amazing blog design resource, offers plenty of tutorials, layout tips, and best of all, a feast of downloads you're free to use.  Classy, festive glitter letters, pretty bow details, and handpicked color palettes?  Yes, please!  Are you as inspired as I am?

{3} I'm not sure if being a year-and-a-month married still qualifies me for the newlywed club or not, but I do still feel like one in so many ways.  I still feel so giddy around my sweet husband, and every day, even when it's tough, feels like such a privilege.  I can't believe I get to be married to someone so giving and so good to me.  And so handsome.  Anyway, I read this amazing 20th anniversary letter this week and practically stopped breathing.  I always feel like I can't possibly love Andrew more, and then I am proven wrong with the passage of time or with some experience that tests us and brings us closer.  I can hardly imagine how that will apply in 20 years!

via Instagram
{4} About a month back, we got to experience the fantastically fun surprise of a belated-wedding gift.  Wouldn't you know, another one came in the mail this week, from my lovely, lovely friend Bridget (she's a bride-to-be, too)!  I love having something with our (our!) name on it, something to decorate my currently empty, in-need-of-artwork walls, and love, love, love, the pretty tule ribbon she wrapped it in!  Thanks B!

{5} I've just started pitching in part time with the youth group at our church, an adventure that began over the summer. It's been an incredible time so far and I'm really looking forward to sharing the school year with the high-schoolers of our parish.  Since my time as a missionary ended, I've really missed working with students, and I think this time will be just what the doctor ordered.

{6} I have to tell you something.  I am so weak sometimes when it comes to money.  Before I got married, I tried for about a year to seriously reduce how much extra stuff I bought, partly to train myself in self-discipline, partly to save for more important things like our honeymoon and in anticipation of not having a job right away after the wedding, and partly because Andrew is seriously the cheapest man I have ever met, in the most endearing way.  I mean, he still took me out and things.  He just hates buying anything for himself beyond what he thinks is necessary, and he thinks so few things are necessary.  Somehow in the past six months or so, though, I've had so much trouble staying within a budget.  Nothing too drastic, but far enough beyond the limits we've agreed on that I've decided to take on a new challenge: for at least the next three months, I will not buy anything new and unnecessary.  Groceries, gas, Church giving, and things for the both of us (that's a different part of our budget) are in.  New clothes, Pumpkin Spice lattes, and small things I always seem to acquire, like new nail polish, are out.  I tend to have a hard time starting fasts like these, but usually, the longer I'm able to keep them up the more motivated I am to continue.  So here's hoping.  I'd love any advice you have!


{7} A few days ago, Andrew and I watched The Royal Tenenbaums, one of our favorite flicks, for the first time in a while.  I love everything about this movie, from the title family's insanely decorated house, each characters' distinctive style, and the invitation we get into their wounded hearts.  If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it.  And if you like what you see, make sure you check out the director, Wes Anderson's, other stuff, too, especially his sweet new love story, Moonrise Kingdom!

Ladies, have a wonderful weekend.  Make your soul bigger.  I'd love to hear what you're all up to!


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Lectio: A Severe Mercy


{recommended reading}



I've got to say off the bat, this book isn't exactly an upper.  It's sad, but absolutely brimming with beauty.  A Severe Mercy is a memoir, a romance, a tragedy, and a conversion story all at once.  Sheldon Vanauken met his future wife Davy during a Christmas break from college.  The story of their courtship seriously reads like a how-to guide for a loving, passionate, and fiercely loyal relationship; way better, in my opinion, than any modern magazine or even marriage-prep book could offer: money doesn't belong to either person exclusively, they agree to discuss, discuss, discuss things they don't see eye to eye on until they come to a conclusion, and there's no reason at all why marriage shouldn't mean total sharing.

For instance:

'Look,' we said.  'What is it that draws two people into closeness and love?  Of course there's the mystery of physical attraction, but beyond that it's the things they share.  We both love strawberries and ships and collies and poems and beauty, and all those things bind us together.  Those sharings just happened to be; but what we must do now is share everything.  Everything!  If one of us likes  anything, there must be something to like in it--and the other one must find it.  Every single thing that either of us likes.  That way we shall create a thousand strands, great and small, that will link us together.  Then we shall be so close that it would be impossible--unthinkable--for either of us to suppose that we could ever recreate such closeness with anyone else.  And our trust in each other will not only be based on love and loyalty but on the fact of a thousand sharings--a thousand strands twisted into something unbreakable.'

They write exquisite poems to each other, run through the grounds of Oxford together at night, and envison a wall, a "shining barrier," enclosing their love, not to keep it small and exclusive, but to guard it against division and conflict.  They even spend a period of time being secretly married, unable to wait for school to be over.  The depth of their love took my breath away.  For your reading pleasure:

What was remarkable, if not unique, about our love--our inloveness--was all we built into it, giving to it all our minds and devotion.  But beneath all the hard thought was the loveliness of the love itself, love so deep and clear that it almost broke our hearts with its passion and tenderness.

What makes Sheldon and Davy's love all the more amazing is that each awakens the other to new questions of Truth.  They begin their university years as avowed atheists (Sheldon frequently calls himself and his wife "pagans," with no self-consciousness, just honesty).  Slowly, though, their friendships and intellectual discussions with other students and, amazingly, C.S. Lewis (I know!) begin revealing something deeper than just this life: God Himself is revealed to them.  Amazing!  It's certainly a worthy journey, but it's a painful one, too.

You know the song "How He Loves Us?"  The first line is, "He is jealous for me."  I kept thinking of that line as I was writing this and remembering my reading experience.  What happens to these lovebirds is that as Davy's conversion begins, her husband, who's not quite on the same page yet, finds himself jealous of God, feeling like He's stealing her love.  It's such a human feeling, one that emerges from fire with the contentment of discovering that all love flows from Love Himself.

Sadly, Sheldon and Davy's love story is cut short on earth.  As I read, it was impossible not to imagine being in the same shoes, forced to say goodbye to my heart and wondering what God's will could possibly be.  I was actually scared.  What if that could happen to us?  The thing I took away, though, is that the Lord remakes a broken heart if you allow Him to pour His mercy and love over you.  And His mercy includes His will for you, bestowing the confidence that every happening in your life is an act of love.  Sheldon himself says that it's no easy task, and that in his loss, he experiences "a severity as merciful as love," hence the title.  Love isn't idolizing your spouse or putting him or her on the same level as God, but giving all thanks to Him for everything your beloved is.

You know what?  I take back what I said about this book being a downer.  It's sad, yes, but it's certainly not without hope, and absolutely not without immense love.  How can love, honest and romantic and faithful and stronger than death, do anything but lift your soul to Heaven?

Have any of you read A Severe Mercy?  I'd love to hear what you think!


Monday, September 3, 2012

...For Love's Sake



John Paul II quotes, marriage, love, freedom, catholic wedding

Happy Labor Day!  This three-day weekend has been gloriously good to us so far.  A movie in bed,  decking our walls with new artwork, Mass in an awe-inspiring cathedral, and hopefully today, a nice long hike.  Of course, it's not just about having an extra day off or saying goodbye to summer.  Today we remember that work has value and should honor human dignity.  It's got me thinking about the fact that so often, marriage is made out to be hard, unenjoyable work; a long and tedious haul.  

To me, that couldn't be further from the truth.  Of course, love isn't effortless.  It does take a lot of willpower sometimes to compromise on your wedding registry, do the dishes when you don't feel like it, and forgive with a full heart.  I guess it just bothers me when the world presents love as a burden, you know?  Love is, of course, more than a feeling.  It's learning how to die.

Good old JPII says it much better than me: "freedom exists for the sake of love."  I learn every day that when I lock myself into notions of his-and-hers chores, when my pride makes me act stubborn or defensive in response to Andrew's loving criticism and encouragement, or when I do acts of service with a sense of obligation rather than a generous heart, I am far from free.  I chain my own self to a sense of negativity and duty instead of opening myself to grace.  It's a constant lesson in love, one I aspire to excel in during this life even as I stumble.  Loving and being loved by someone in a pure, unselfish way really does set you free, and quite often, more often than I deserve, my relationship with Andrew feels like the furthest thing from work.  It feels like a gift I'm so happy to give him, a gift freely given and received.  Now, I figure if I can bring myself to feel that way about, say, laundry, it'll be considered growth.

How have you been celebrating this long weekend?  I'd love to know what you've been up to!

PS- I'm trying a new, more personal approach with the graphics here--that picture is of our wedding rings!  Feel free to pin it!


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