Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Lectio: Heaven's Song


{recommended reading}



At the risk of sounding like a complete lunatic, I love talking to people about sex.  Chastity talks, teaching NFP, making myself vulnerable and attempting to set an example by the joy my marriage brings me...I really do feel like there's nothing more important than letting my generation know that they deserve so much more than what the culture has to offer.  If there's one good outcome amongst terrible brokenness brought on by the sexual revolution, I think it's that a lot of prudish, puritan attitudes have been shattered.  There are reverent and irreverent ways to be candid about sexual matters, of course, but I really can't see a drawback to the freedom to talk about these things in a way that can heal and inform.  The truth is ours to reclaim from the world.

Of all the ways to be candid, the very best way, in my opinion, comes from the Church.  There is absolutely nothing more freeing, more truthful, and more oriented towards our happiness and best good than the Church's teachings on sexuality.  Nearly two years ago, I was graced with attending one of Christopher West's Theology of the Body courses, a retreat involving 30 hours of lectures that dive into John Paul II's audiences on sex, marriage, and being human in relation to God, as well as extensive time for prayer, confession, and just letting yourself be healed and loved into a deeper holiness.  "The longest distance," Christopher said, "is the 18 inches between your head and your heart."  He's right!  I came away from the week feeling much more knowledgeable, but with the realization that it's not just about intellectual knowledge--it's about letting these amazing truths sink down deep in your soul and light you up.  If you ever have a chance to go, don't let any reservations stop you.  I dream of going back with Andrew one day, and I can't recommend one of these courses enough!

It wasn't until this retreat that I learned something new about JPII's writing.  Did you know there are ten talks in the Theology of the Body series that the Pope never delivered?  They're on the Song of Songs and on the marriage of Sarah and Tobias.  The subjects were so delicately beautiful that he deemed them too intimate for public delivery.  Luckily for all of us, the book containing the entire series of Theology of the Body audiences, Man and Woman He Created Them, was revised and reprinted to include these stunning reflections on our earthly longings and desires and how they point us straight at the Father.

And now I will finally get to the point of this post.  Maybe even more luckily, Christopher West has such a gift for comprehending and articulating the Pope's words and teaching them to the laity in a way that makes his words easy to understand and in a way that inspires beauty.  This man is practically a poet, and I love his books.  Heaven's Song is his discussion of these "lost talks" from Tobit and the Song of Songs, and it integrates the head and heart aspects so wonderfully.  "Ultimately, only union with God can satisfy the deep 'ache' within us for love," he says.  "The intimate love of spouses is actually a sign, a sacrament, of someting infinitely greater. Those who consecrate themselves entirely to God as celibates witness to this greater union with their very lives.  By doing so, they do not reject their sexuality.  Rather, they show us the ultimate purpose and meaning of human sexuality: to point us to union with God."

Amazing.  I think this book does a fantastic job of not idolizing the intimacy between husband and wife, but emphasizing that, as beautiful as it is, it's only a little taste of something even better.  It seems that it would function as an informative theological primer on married love (the head), but even more so as a great source of spiritual reflection on what you'll enter into in a new way in marriage (the heart!).

By the way, I've told you before what a struggle my engagement was when it came to chastity.  The way I saw it, it was important to a limited extent to get comfortable talking about sex, but it was really hard, a lot of the time, not to fall into temptation, so Andrew and I made a lot of efforts to keep each other accountable by changing the subject when one or both of us was having a hard time.  What's your take on conversations like these?  Any wisdom on how to discuss sexuality in a prudent way?

And, of course, if any of you have read Heaven's Song, I'd love to hear what you think!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Veritas: Dennis and Anabelle

{real life love}

A few weeks ago, I told you how St. Therese gifted me with a rose when I started dating my husband.  But this isn't about me, nor are these things limited to roses.  Turns out, the Father does not contain Himself when it comes to answering prayers with flowers.

I met Anabelle through her blog, Written By the Finger of God.  It's chock-full of Catholic romance--real stories of real couples and how they fell in love through Christ!  I'm so honored that she let me share her story here.  Do be sure to visit her site and read more!


As a young woman, Anabelle went on a pilgrimage to Banneux, Belgium, a site where Our Lady once appeared.  She was traveling with her aunt and uncle, who told her the story of their relationship: Anabelle's aunt used to pray one daily Hail Mary for her future husband.  "When she met my uncle and they were supposed to go out, she asked Our Lady to have him wear something blue if he was the one.  He wore blue from head to toe that night."  Inspired, Anabelle prayed to Mary for a blue-eyed man and asked Our Lady to show her, with a bluebell flower, the one the Lord had chosen for her.

Meanwhile, there was another woman praying for flowers: Dennis' mom!  She prayed often to St. Therese for her son to meet his future wife (Dennis had been waiting so long for a loving, holy woman that he'd only half-jokingly decided he'd consider the priesthood soon).

When Anabelle joined a Catholic young adults group after moving to a new city, there was one seat too few at the bar.  She left to use the bathroom one night, and Dennis stole her spot!  And that, ladies, was their first encounter.  "I was miffed when I got back," Anabelle says (of course!), "seeing how he didn’t even offer to grab me a chair or get out of the seat he deliberately stole."

Over the next few weeks, they continued running into each other at their group, but according to Anabelle, "Dennis didn’t take my chairs anymore, he just sat right beside me.  He could make anyone laugh and so I quickly got over my first impression of him. We always went out in groups so it was a very relaxed and casual atmosphere of getting to know each other.  One other thing I noticed other than his ability to make me laugh was that he loved the Catholic Church, far more than I did (and I thought I was a pretty good Catholic)."  They were dancing together at a party one night, laughing the night away under the starts, and she realized, "I had to admit my dislike had gone to like without my consent!"

On their first official date, something big happened.  Dennis dashed into a little shop mid-date and emerged with a sculpted glass flower.  It was a bluebell!  He later admitted to Anabelle that he'd only nabbed her seat in an effort to start a conversation and get her attention.

Right as their relationship was unfolding, though, Anabelle got a job offer in another state.  She and Dennis spent the next month apart, getting to know each other more deeply over the phone, and agreed to meet up again soon at a spot in Southern California, where their relatives lived.

Remember Dennis' mom and St. Therese?  Around this time, she'd unknowingly begun a novena to Therese, and received a big bouquet of roses when she met Anabelle for the first time.  Anabelle's mom was interceding, too--she'd been praying to St. Expeditus, to hasten Anabelle's marriage, and was almost through a novena when her daughter mentioned that she'd met someone.  You can't make these things up!  Between their moms' prayers and the intercession of Our Lady, Annabelle knows "our earthly mothers as well as Heavenly Mother were involved in the matchmaking."

Not long after, Dennis picked Anabelle up from the airport for a visit and drove immediately to a nearby church.  In front of a statue of Our Lady, under the same stars they'd danced under, he proposed.  They set their wedding date for six months later, but due to their job situations, spend most of their engagement apart.  It's ironic, Anabelle says, that "we’d only been physically together for a month of dating and separated four months, only to reunite with a flurry of hectic wedding preparations before our wedding day."  Looking back, she loves how the distance deepened their communication and their longing for one another.

Several years of marriage later, Dennis and Anabelle continue to trust in Our Lady's intercession, even when life gets hard.  They've had two miscarriages, for instance, and look forward to meeting their children in Heaven.  They have three children on earth as well as their two in Heaven, and Anabelle strives to make her family a domestic church, with daily Mass, nightly family rosaries, and frequent confession.  And yet, she says, "I don’t mean that our spiritual lives are regulated by a rigid schedule but that our domestic Church is closely tied to and follows the lead of the Catholic Church.  Christ is very much the head of my husband and he is the head of our family."

I can't get over this story!  Dennis and Anabelle's certainty about their love from such an early time is amazing to behold.  Movies feature whirlwind romances so often, but real life truly is better--when I considered the fact that Mary, the saints, and their very own moms were praying for Dennis and Anabelle, I realized that their relationship was hardly a whirlwind at all--it was written from long before they ever knew.

Want to see your love story featured on Captive the Heart?  Email me at stephanie.captivetheheart@gmail.com!



Sunday, October 28, 2012

New Feature! What I Wore Sunday, Volume 1

Shallow confession time: I love, love love reading fashion blogs, which maybe isn't such a bad thing, unless it makes me start to feel inadequate or puts me in an overly materialistic mood.  Luckily, Emily and Kendra over at Fine Linen and Purple have an answer to the negative attitudes that can creep into my mind when I go on clothes overload--their adorable blog, according to these ladies, is "where faith, fashion, and natural beauty meet," and they definitely deliver!  It's a collection of stylish advice and affirmation in who we are.  These women understand that beauty is a gift, one we naturally possess and not one we have to put on every day.  Recent posts of theirs have discussed makeup, dressing up for work, and Emily and Kendra's cute picks for shoes and sunglasses.

Best of all, Fine Linen and Purple is hosting a new weekly linkup, What I Wore Sunday, to put a new twist on style blogging--sharing your Sunday Mass outfit!  And so, without further ado...


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Buttondown: American Eagle.  Blazer: Target.  Belt: Forever 21.  Corduroys: J. Crew (on sale!).  Loafers: Shoemint.   Necklace: handmade.  Silver bead bracelet: Ralph Lauren (gift).  Silver monogram bracelet: DKM.
 
preppy outfit, fall outfit, striped oxford, tartan blazer, preppy, classic, J. Crew matchstick cords, corduroys, yellow pants, penny loafers, shoemint, monogram bracelet, rosary bracelet, pearls

Head over to the linkup to check out more Sunday outfit inspiration, and if you like what you see, follow their instructions to submit your own (you don't have to have a blog to do it)!

What do you think?  Too off-topic?  Too-yellow pants?  Would you enjoy seeing more What I Wore Sunday posts on Captive the Heart?  I'd love to hear what you think!


Friday, October 26, 2012

Love Notes: Bracelet Buddies

{small ways to show great love}

In high school, I watched a lot of Friends.  There's an episode where Joey gets his big break on the soap opera Days of Our Lives and wants to pay Chandler back for money Chandler lent to him, in the form of a hideous gold bracelet.  He gets one for himself, too!  Not wanting to hurt Joey's feelings, Chandler feels forced to constantly wear his bracelet, in spite of everyone's teasing, and worries that they're doomed to be "bracelet buddies" forever.

Do you remember?  Regardless, I think that matching accessories, religious jewelry in particular, can actually be really sweet.  This is not the same thing as, say, matching chastity rings, which I never got on board with (feel free to debate me on this).  Not long after we started dating, Andrew lost a Miraculous Medal he'd gotten on a mission trip that was so special to him.  He told me that he felt funny and a little vulnerable not wearing any religious articles after having his medal for so long. For our six month anniversary, I wanted to surprise him with something new.  I picked out a simple wood rosary bracelet for him, and at the last minue, I added an extra one to my shopping cart that I could wear, too.  I loved the idea that we could be united in prayer in such a tangible way, especially during our long-distance engagement. Two and half years later, we still wear them!  Andrew's had to be restrung, and a baby once threw mine on the floor of a restaurant and I almost forgot it, but it makes me so happy knowing that we have a little piece of our early relationship to keep with us and seeing the beads get as worn and shiny as they've become.

A bracelet, a medal, a rosary...take your pick!  Wearing or carrying the same religious articles can be such a great visual, prayerful reminder of what you two share.  And, if you can, I think it's beautiful to have them blessed together!  Here are a few of my picks:

1. Keychain  2. Tau Cross  3. Scapular  4. Miraculous Medal  5. Ecce Homo Medal  6. St. Michael Medal  7. Rosary Bracelet  8. Marian Consecration Chain (similar)
Which one's your favorite?  And, I'm dying to know: do you and your fiance share anything like this?  How do you unite your spiritual lives?


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Economy of Salvation: The Thriftiest Mrs.


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



Two years ago when I lived near Philadelphia, I discovered a huge problem.  When I was surrounded by good thrift stores, I found, I was practically powerless not to buy tons of new clothes and decor.  As any serious thrifter will tell you, what you might find largely depends on the area, and I evidently lived in an area where people donated plenty of quality, stylish items that were like candy to me.  I had so much fun digging through different shops for bargains, though looking back, I question how much money I saved when I consider that multiple bargains do add up.

Regardless of my weakness, I just wanted to share the thrills of thrifting with you when it comes to your wedding!  From candlesticks to bolts of fabric to vintage books and jewelry, secondhand stores are like a treasure chest of pretty, and pretty cheap, resources you can use to decorate at your reception or even add to your wedding day ensemble.  I've seen a few nice consignment stores that have gorgeous, modern once-worn wedding gowns, even!  They're a far cry from those puffy-sleeved-and-skirted frocks covered with beads that you typically see in thrift store windows.  I think it's worth seeking them out!  You have nothing to lose, and who knows what kind of beauty you could uncover?

Do any of you enjoy thrifting as much as I do?  What special wedding things have you been on the lookout for?


Monday, October 22, 2012

Great Are The Joys


Today I'm catching up after a whirlwind weekend of sleeping in three different beds in three nights, plenty of coffee, pink roses, old friends, and witnessing the marriage of my best friend Beth and the love of her life, Nick!  Join me in interceding for them at the start of their life together!

I'm afraid that's the most I have prepared today in the way of posts, but be sure to head over to Ignitum Today and read my first monthly column!

I hope you had a lovely weekend, too!  Anything new and exciting?


Friday, October 19, 2012

7 Quick Takes, Volume 6


{story of a soul, condensed}

Seven pieces of my life, as of the last two weeks.  Visit Jennifer at Conversion Diary for more quick takes from her and other Catholic bloggers!


Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, Mount St. Mary's University, Catholic university, catholic chapel, Mount, Catholic wedding, Catholic wedding blog, Catholic wedding planning, Catholic bride, Catholic marriage prep
via Instagram

{1} Words can't express how happy I am to tell you that Beth, one of my best friends, gets to marry Nick, the love of her life, tomorrow afternoon!  Their love has been such a long time coming, they have a cozy new house, Nick is so sweet and treats Beth like a princess, and I couldn't be more excited.  Join me in praying to Saints Rita and Jude for blessings upon their life together, and for two special ladies who can't be at the wedding--Beth's little sister Joan, who's a cloistered nun, and Nick's grandma, who's in the hospital (they're going to surprise Grandma with a visit, in their wedding clothes, after the reception--shhh!).  Above is the chapel on our college campus where they're getting married.  It's one of my favorite places on this earth; nothing can touch me there.  Also, I get to be a bridesmaid for the first time!  Do you have any advice for me?

{2} Speaking of weddings, I'd love your advice on something else.  My friend Bob, who's incredibly dear to me, is also getting married soon, to a gorgeous, holy California girl named Jenny.  They dated long distance for quite a while and were always sending each other cute-but-weird gifts like remote-control airplanes, homemade granola, and pencils with jokes written on them.  Bob proposed by hiding Jenny's ring in a box of pancake mix!  So, you can see why not just any wedding present will do.  We share a love of fish tacos, philosophy, brussels sprouts, reggae, and spending as little money as possible (we have an ongoing competition in cheapness.  He's probably winning).  The thing is, none of those shared interests exactly lend themselves to gifts, at least not any that I can think of.  I'd love to know: what are some of the quirkiest, most useful, most personal, or nicely funniest wedding gifts you've seen or received?  Boy, I hope he's not reading this...

Christmas, sweaters, ugly sweaters, ugly Christmas sweaters, secondhand sweaters, cardinals, nordic sweater, Catholic wedding, Catholic wedding blog, Catholic wedding planning, Catholic bride, Catholic marriage prep
via Instagram
{3} Behold.  A few months ago, inspired by some old, huge, Nordic-looking ski sweaters of my parents', Andrew and I decided that we will go to at least one fancy Christmas party wearing the ugliest sweaters we can find.  We don't want to call attention to them; we're just going to act like they're normal sweaters.  Or at least we'll try to!  Anyway, look what Andrew found at Goodwill this week!  Aren't the cardinals hilarious?  As for me, I'm not sure mine is ugly enough...I think my search will continue.

{ 4} In my first apartment after college, my roommate Sara and I decided to forego internet and TV.  We loved it--our living space was so peaceful, and we were both able to spend plenty of time pursuing other, much lovelier things, like reading together in the living room with a pumpkin candle, sitting on the floor talking, and discussing each other's outfits for the next day.  I never missed the computer, and when we did need it, it was easy to use the internet elsewhere.  I've been thinking a lot about those sweet days recently as I've realized how much time I spend online or blogging after I come home from work, even after I've already sat in front of a computer for the entire day.  So, I've made it a goal of mine to spend at least two nights a week completely unplugged, except for music and phone calls, and I really have found so much more time to exercise, read, and get things done around the house.  A few nights ago, we deep cleaned our entire apartment!  I usually clean pretty lazily, like vacuuming around things instead of moving them and giving the bathroom mirror a little wipedown before people come over, but really tidying and scrubbing everything felt so good.  I definitely recommend nights off from your computer!

{5} In the last few weeks, I read this article (Katie, NFP and Me) and this article (Trista, Not A Minx) on the subject of sleeping in the same bed before marriage.  I've always considered the fact that aside from the occasion of major temptation, even when you're trying to be chaste, the implication of two people "sleeping together" doesn't exactly connote something as innocent as literally just sharing a bed.  It's almost entirely due to grace that I made it to my wedding having never shared a bed with anyone I dated, including Andrew, so no judgment here.  I am curious, though, to know what you think.  Be sure to visit Katie and Trista's blogs to read the full rundown of their thoughts!

{6} I stumbled across this home workout series, Blogilates, this week.  I've been curious about Pilates for a while, and I haven't gotten around to these yet, but it seems like free videos are a good way to try it out, no?  I'm looking forward to it!There are cardio workouts and healthy living advice, too.  My one issue, sometimes, with fitness sites, is the underlying need to look a certain way for the sake of a guy or a bikini.  Personally, I'd much rather be healthy than conform to standards like these--there's enough pressure on us as it is.  Have you experienced anything like this?  If you like and use other fitness resources that have a more holistic, total-person approach, please do share!  And by the way, if you never caught one of my first posts about beauty, you can read it here!

{7} A few of my friends from work and I have decided to start a monthly book discussion!  For this former English major, it's been far too long since I've gotten to talk about what I'm reading with someone besides my husband, as interesting as he is, so I'm really pumped!  The first book we decided on is The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker.  Have any of you read it?  And if not, I love recommendations and would still enjoy hearing what you're reading right now!

A clean apartment, two upcoming weddings that are sure to be beautiful, I get to see my family this weekend, and two of my friends just welcomed their first baby, Therese Rose Marie!  It's an extraordinary life.  Tell me what you're up to, too!



Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My Spirit Rejoices: How He Loves and January Wedding


{sweet sounds for your Mass and reception}

January Wedding lyrics, The Avett Brothers, The avett brothers lyrics, winter wedding, wedding songs, first dance songs, true love quotes, the avett brothers quotes
Background source
  When Andrew and I first started dating, there were so many nights when I'd be walking across campus by myself, to the gym or the library, and just start laughing out loud to myself under the stars.  A few times, I lay down in the grass while I did it.  I kept smiling at the thought that I knew I'd finally found him, the future husband I'd been praying for and wondering about for years, and just happily saying "Thank You!" out loud over and over.  I was overwhelmed by the Lord's goodness to me.

How He loves us.  What a gift He's given to me, by no merit of my own.  Do you ever feel this way, just so completely thankful for your beloved that you can hardly believe such a blessing is possible?  How He Loves expresses these feelings perfectly.  In the last few years, I've begun to favor secular music with a spiritual bent over straight up Christian music, because I love the realness and vulnerability that's there; rather than just praise, there is genuine emotion and real scars.  There are a few lines in this song that convey that same idea, like these:

All of a sudden
I am unaware
of these afflictions
eclipsed by glory

There's also pure awe and wonder in this song:  yes, He really does love us that much.  Beauty.  Listen to it here!

Okay, disclaimer time: I realize it's only October, but this is one of my favorite songs, and I was thinking to myself, "You know, this song is called January Wedding, so there's really only one appropriate month when someone could play it, but if I wait until January to actually feature it, all the girls getting married then will have already chosen a song."  Just how my mind works, I guess.  Anyway, I love, love, love The Avett Brothers.  These two actual brothers and their band write such honest, lyrical songs about light in darkness and hope in brokenness, with a religious sensibility that never comes off as preachy.  January Wedding is one of their most charming love songs.  Observe:

She's talkin' to me with her
voice down so low I barely hear her.
But I know what she's sayin'
I understand because my heart and hers
are the same.

and

I hope that I don't sound too insane
when I say there is darkness
all around us.
I don't feel weak but I do
need sometimes for her to protect me
and reconnect me to the beauty
that I'm missing.

I told you there's darkness and light.  It's funny; my younger self never would've found lyrics like these romantic.  I used to always want songs to have a perfect, Taylor Swift-style happy ending.  But now, having grown more spiritually and having seen the reality of our aches and our brokenness, I absolutely love songs that see the truth of who we are and let love in to heal.  And so, January brides, I humbly submit this sweet little ditty for a spot on your must-play list.  What do you think?

Listen to January Wedding here!


Monday, October 15, 2012

Rite Resources: Puzzlemaker


One semester, my college offered free newspapers every day.  In between our 10:00 classes and noon Mass, my friends and I would sometimes compete and sometimes help each other to finish the crossword puzzle and Sudoku while we watched The Price Is Right.  It's one of my fondest memories.

You know how I feel so strongly that you should make your wedding as personal as possible?  Given how much I love puzzles, and how smart and willing a helper Andrew is, I really wanted to make a crossword for our guests to work on during the cocktail hour, when the two of us would be busy taking pictures.  I first encountered Puzzlemaker way back in middle school--my sixth grade science teacher had us make crosswords to trade with a partner and use as a study guide at the end of each unit (five letter scientific name for your shinbone, anyone?*).  This super nifty, free service lets you make word searches, crosswords, hidden message word games, and those unscramble-the-bubbled-letters puzzles.  You supply the clues, and they do all the behind-the-scenes formatting for you!

I think a puzzle is a perfect pastime for your guests before your reception gets underway.  It's a great way for your different friends and family members to interact as they help each other with clues, and for your less familiar guests like your new husband's great aunt and uncle, a fun way for them to get to know more about two of you!  We tried to create a mix of clues in our crossword puzzle, ranging from more universal, nuptial-related words and phrases from the Rite of Marriage, information they could learn from our wedding programs like our middle names, and a few more obscure things about each of us (little-known fact: I know all the words to the song MMMBop by Hanson.  Yes, there are real words).  We loved making it, and best of all, it hardly cost anything to print enough copies for all of our guests!  A thrifty goodie that lets you share yourselves in an original, personal way: what's not to like?

So tell me: are there any other puzzle-lovers like me out there?  What other games and activities do you dream of offering your guests?

*Tibia.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Birds Of A Feather, The Fall Edition


Back in April, I featured a collection of feathery, flowery, lovebird-inspired items.  Of course, birds aren't just springtime critters.  Now that the air's getting cooler and the days are getting shorter, I love the rich look of bigger, more dramatic feathers.  The colors are perfect for the season and they have such a grand but cozy feel about them.  My friend Becca dressed her bridesmaids in the most amazing one-shouldered, cobalt blue dresses and peacock feather accessories.  Everyone looked so stunning!    Whether you borrow deep teals and blues from a peacock or the more rustic look of patterned brown feathers, both of which I think you should dress up with some nice warm metallics, I think it's a look you'll be glad you flocked to (I know.  Sorry.).

1. Invitation, Minted  2. Boutonniere, Etsy  3. Clutch, Nordstrom  4. Dress, Target  5.  Feather Bouquet (source)  6. Pendant, Etsy  7. Dress, J. Crew Factory  8. Fascinator, Etsy  9. Nail Polish, Essie  10. Napkin Rings, Etsy

I'd love to hear what you think!  Would you add any of these aviary elements into your wedding mix?

Have a lovely weekend!



Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Busy...

...Not much time for a post today.  But here, for your enjoyment, a perfectly lovely quote:

Marriage quotes, St. John Chrysostom, I have taken you in my arms, Cathechism of the Catholic Church, Catholic marriage, Catholic wedding planning, Catholic wedding blog, Catholic bride, Catholic quotes on love and marriage, wedding quotes, love quotes, Catholic love quotes

Monday, October 8, 2012

New Love, 3 Years Later

Natalie Franke Photography

Last week, I told you the story of how Andrew and I started dating.  Today marks three years since our first date!  I was reading my memory of it in my journal, and I thought I'd share some of the details with you!

This day, Andrew sat in on my English class (he'd graduated by then, but was our professor's favorite student.  He debates this.  I refuse.).  He leaned over my Washington Square book with me, each of our hands holding one side of the cover open. It made me shy all of a sudden.  After, we sat next to a volleyball court and talked.  He flicked a bug off of my shoulder.  When Andrew brought me flowers that evening, I overfilled the vase because I was looking at him instead of paying attention to the faucet.    He was wearing a black buttondown and an extraordinary smile, so how could I not?  "Would you mind terribly if I held your hand?" he asked, on our car ride, quiet in a way that was magical and not completely awkward.  We ordered the same thing to eat at dinner and stayed at the table until we realized we'd occupied it for two and a half hours, but didn't want to say goodnight yet.  So, we drove to Andrew's parents' house.  His sisters had made peanut butter cookies and his dad had coffee from Latin America.  We all played Scattegories and watched Jim and Pam get married on The Office.  I left my leftovers in the fridge after we left to take me back to school, and he led me by the hand back inside to get them.  I locked my car door (my husband never locks the doors), and when Andrew came around to open it, he couldn't from the outside.  "You make it hard to be a gentleman," he told me.  He walked me to my apartment, gave me a perfectly-pressured hug, and I tried to go about my normal bedtime routine.  Between the coffee and this sweet boy, it wasn't easy.  I lay in bed and tried to get a whole rosary-while-laying-down finished for once.  Then I fell asleep anyway.

It's funny. All things considered, we haven't been together all that long.  I mean, my friends Becca and Clint dated for three years before getting married this summer.  Andrew got down on one knee just eight months after those first wondrous hours at Olive Garden.  Still, the days of things like nighttime rosary walks around campus and sitting side by side in the library with Andrew reading next to me while I did homework seem like a whole separate world to me now.  Our love is still so young, I guess, but I honestly feel like it's been a lifetime.  Like, I can't remember a time when I didn't know him and didn't love him.  Pure Gift.  Thank you, Father.  Let me spend my life becoming more and more worthy of this man.  Andrew, here's to us.


Friday, October 5, 2012

7 Quick Takes, Volume 5

{story of a soul, condensed}

Seven pieces of my life, as of the last two weeks.  Visit Jennifer at Conversion Diary for more quick takes!

farmer's market, pumpkin carving, pumpkin spice, latte, squash, radish, potatoes, miraculous medal, anchor, catholic pumpkin, anchor pumpkin, nautical pumpkin, Catholic wedding, Catholic marriage prep, Catholic bride, Catholic wedding blog
via Instagram

1. We spent last Sunday (and I do mean the entire day--I don't remember it taking this long when I was a kid!) carving pumpkins with our friends!  Andrew and I brought home three pumpkins bedecked with an anchor, our initials, and a Miraculous Medal.  I'd say our carving speed ratio was 2:1--cutting out the M for mine took hours!  We've spent plenty of time reveling in Fall lately--the pumpkins were accompanied by a visit to the farmer's market and homemade pumpkin lattes!

2. I'm bursting to tell you: I'll soon have a new column at Ignitum Today!  If you've never read the honest, thoughtful articles on this blog written by young Catholic adults, go do it now.  Relationships, politics, the media...whatever you're most interested in, I'm sure you'll find something awesome.  I admire the way a lot of Ignitum's writers engage the culture in a way that's boldly out in the world, not just timidly in their pews, and am so excited to join them!  My first piece will be published later this month.


3. T.S. Eliot's poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is so special to Andrew and I.  So imagine how unbelievingly delighted I was to find this print with one of the exact lines that means the most to us!  I do think it would look perfect in our living room.

4. Back in college, a philosophy class called Love and Friendship opened my eyes to Catholic teaching on authentic love, as well as the wounds the culture has inflicted on our generation, for the first time.  I knew I wanted to tell my peers that there's something so much better out there, and it's what inspired me to pursue a year as a chastity speaker.  I was reminded of that time in my junior year, feeling simultaneously shocked, saddened, and hopeful, when I read this article this week about hookup culture and a few responses to it here and here.  It's provocative reading, but I think it's so important not to shy away from the reality we live in, the better to humbly confront it with truth and love.  I'd love to know what you think!

Let's colour project, Rio de Janeiro, green buildings, painted buildings, lapa stairs, brazil, Catholic wedding blog, Catholic wedding, Catholic marriage prep, Catholic bride

5. Confession time: I am totally materialistic sometimes.  Give me a little too much time on Pinterest or lifestyle blogs, and I'll find myself making long lists of things I'm suddenly convinced I need for my apartment and my closet.  Do you ever fall into this, too?  How do you drag yourself out of a coveting mindset?  I've been trying to remind myself that I need way less than I think I do (I need none of it, in fact!), and that if I moderate my window shopping and wishlisting, it'll be easier.  One thing that helps me, though, is perusing pretty, non-shopping related images that give my heart a lift.  I just found out about this oh-so-charming project, Let's Colour: painting the town, literally, in little corners all over the world that can use a lift!  It's the beautiful things...

6. Confession time, part two: until last Sunday, I had not been to confession since Ash Wednesday.  I know the Church only requires two trips to reconciliation a year, but after getting into the habit of going every two or three weeks during college (my campus was shared with a seminary, so lucky for all of us students, the sacraments were constantly available) and needing to go all the time during my first year out of school, even a few months feels like a long time to me now.  We're blessed to have daily Mass and confession opportunities at our parish, right within walking distance.  Back in the spring, I started a new job that doesn't make it possible for me to get to Mass during the week anymore, and it wasn't until a few weeks ago that I really started feeling the weight of not receiving the Eucharist as often.  I was constantly grumpy, easily frustrated, and felt quite a few attacks on my self-worth.  My soul was tired.  It finally came to me that I felt all this heaviness because it had been so long since it had been lightened by God's mercy in the confessional.  I couldn't wait to receive it.  So, Andrew and I went on a little confession date this past weekend, and I really do feel so free.  I never want to wait that long again.  Working ladies, teach me your ways!  How do you maintain your spiritual life with a 9 to 5 schedule?

7. And lastly, for your listening pleasure, a song I can't stop listening to (scroll to the bottom!). 

Enjoy the weekend!  What are you up to?


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Lectio: Mad Hungry

{recommended reading}


 Mad Hungry, Lucinda Scala Quinn, feeding men, feeding boys, hearty meals, easy cookbooks, Catholic wedding, Catholic marriage prep, Catholic wedding blog, Catholic bride, shower gifts for brides


When I was back at school unpacking after Fall break during my senior year of college, my best friend Beth came in our room gleefully clutching this old-school marriage book she'd unearthed in her parents' house.  It was formidably, amusingly titled Cana Is Forever (or maybe it's just amusing to me, since I have so many fond memories of it).  Along with your standard Catholic marriage prep topics like prayer, children, and money, this little gem also included words of wisdom like "cook him a real he-man meal (don't make him diet because you are on one)," "don't kiss him when you have on fresh makeup," and "never say her hat is crazy; praise her for her unusual headgear."  I'm making fun of it, but there really was some solid, holy advice there beneath the 50s housewife trappings.  If you're interested, I found a copy here in EWTN's online library!

But Cana Is Forever is not the book I want to tell you about this week.  Instead, I want to share my very favorite cookbook with you!  Even if you don't need to take a bath and put makeup on before your husband gets home from work anymore, for practical reasons alone it's nice to prepare yourself culinarily for marriage.  I love to cook and have had so much fun making meals for Andrew in the last year or so, even when he fake-complains (okay, real-complains) about eating things like kale.  

Anyway, Mad Hungry is, to me, the perfect book for beginners as well as more experienced cooks.  Lucinda Scala Quinn's approach to meals is yummy and simple: fresh, whole ingredients used to make everything from scratch in an uncomplicated way.  In her eyes, feeding your family is an act of love, a way to create so many special memories around the table, and an opportunity to teach them how satisfying cooking can be.  She practices awesome thrift (she suggests only buying whole chickens, for instance, and cutting them into pieces yourself, then using the bones for stock, which saves money and doesn't let anything go to waste).  She includes both basics (cornbread, marinara sauce, blueberry muffins) and more adventurous worldly fare (Malysian noodle bowls, chili made with real chile peppers, Mediterranean tabbouleh salad).  And, she really shows that meals from scratch are healthier and hardly more difficult to make than their processed equivalents.  I'm so in love.  What's more, the book includes a  super helpful list of good-to-have kitchen supplies, which is far shorter than what registry people in department stores would have you believe, and is sprinkled with little tips about getting the most out of specific ingredients and engaging your family as you prepare meals.  The recipes are written like a conversation rather than a science experiment, which makes them so easy to follow, and the killer stories introducing each one are the icing on the cake.  I think it's the perfect gift for brides-to-be!

Now.  Since I love reading cookbooks so much (I seriously sit and read my cookbooks sometimes!), tell me: which ones are your favorites?


Monday, October 1, 2012

A Shower of Roses




In the words of my friend Fr. Tim, Felicitations!  Happy Feast of St. Therese (and Happy First Anniversary to my friends George and Brittany)!  I've shared my love story with you before, but I don't think I've ever told you much about the time Andrew first asked me out.  I said no.

We were having coffee in the campus dining hall at one of those small, narrow booths where only two people can fit, sitting across from each other.  I'd been broken up with my first serious boyfriend for all of a week.  That morning, my best friend's little sister had entered a cloistered religious order, meaning that God willing, the two of them were essentially saying goodbye until Heaven.  Andrew was doing this cute thing he does where he sits on top of one foot and leans forward to listen as someone's talking.  I hate those might-as-well-be-dating type friendships where you're a little more emotionally invested than is prudent with the opposite sex, and I'd wanted to bring it up to him that day.  Before I could open my mouth, though, Andrew looked right at me and said, "Stephanie, look.  I really like you.  I'd like to date you, but I know now's not a good time.  I just wanted to know if you'd want that sometime soon."

I was floored by his honesty, his directness, and his willingness to make himself vulnerable for my sake.  I wanted so much to say yes right then, but thank you Holy Spirit, I had the distinct feeling that there was no reason at all to rush this, because it was going to be for real and I wanted to make my heart as ready as possible (have I ever said that I used to see him a few desks away in our English classes and think that I knew I'd end up with him?).  I knew I wasn't prepared yet, so that's what I told him.  Andrew was such a patient gentleman.

The day I did say yes was the day after the Feast of St. Therese.  She's famous for saying that she'd spend her time in Heaven showering roses upon the earth.  So, in honor of that promise, the Campus Ministry group at my school always gave out single-stemmed roses to random students on her feast day.  I loved the tradition, and I'd been feeling a pull on my heart that it was time to give Andrew a real answer.  I prayed to Therese, telling her that if I was given a rose, I'd know that moving forward was the Lord's will for us.  I was so scared that the answer would be no, and almost started to cry.  Later, though, I realized that if we were, in fact, on the cusp of the rest of our lives, it really would happen in time.  Just because I didn't receive confirmation of it tomorrow didn't mean it would never become real.

Wouldn't you know, Stephanie Marie Kreiner was not given a rose on October 1st, 2009.  On October 2nd, however, she was walking to class and stopped at a bench she never normally sat on, one a little away from her normal route, while she finished talking to her mom on the phone.  When she got up to walk inside, she saw one of the roses from the day before lying in a flowerbed where someone had left it.  She started laughing, uncontrollably, and then went to go talk about William Faulkner or something.

That evening, as the sun was setting in a cloudy-day sort of sunset in front of the library, she asked Andrew to ask her out again.  It was on another bench she'd never sat on before.  He asked and she said, "I'd love to."

Oh, Therese.  She is so, so good and has come through for me in so many more ways since that day.  So in her honor, please celebrate accordingly for me, and definitely stop and smell some roses!


P.S.  This is my 100th post!  It couldn't have landed on a better day, in my opinion!

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