Eight Thoughts (after eight months, naturally)

JMJ1

Above: I got inspired to put together an image for the Holy Names and pin it to the top of my posts from now on! The lovely floral wreath kindly came from http://www.karenswhimsy.com/public_domain_images

Wow, I hate to have been gone for so long! Right now, life is hopping . . . but today, a post must happen because it’s The Dash and I’s eight-month courting milestone! And, needless to say, one doesn’t have to twist my arm very much in order to coerce a courtship post out of me . . .

8monthsLately I’ve been thinking back to the kind of person I was, shortly before I met The Dash . . . the events that led up to our meeting one another for the first time . . . it’s mesmerizing how things can change–most especially, how I can change, particularly in my perspective! God has been so merciful and good to help me grow throughout this courtship.

With all this having been said, I thought it would be fun to put together a post describing eight lessons I’ve learned in these last 240-ish days/ 5,760 hours of courting the wonderful, amazing Dash. And then I’ll get back to working on the things I need to be doing ๐Ÿ˜‰

1. God knows who you really need

Exactly this time last year, I was on my knees before St. Raphael every day, begging for him to guide my future husband into my life and to inspire him to deliberately pursue me. (Be careful what you pray for . . .)

In the realm of relationships, I had been spending several years knowing what I wanted . . . and then realizing it wasn’t what God wanted for me and that it wasn’t bringing me peace, or was even subtly damaging myself and others. This process repeated itself multiple times, and in various situations.

I desperately wanted to do things right: to meet the right person, and to go about a future relationship the right way. I wrote multiple journal entries, made lists of traits and temperaments, and had long conversations with my parents and siblings. Many of those listed traits were and are indispensable: mature, hardworking, devout, reliable, respectful, pure.

But apart from these, I also became ridiculously convinced that I was best compatible with certain temperament types, and equally convinced that I could never be as genuinely myself (in the way that’s necessary for courtship) around others of a different kind. I found a face-value security in this determination and embedded myself in this mindset for months.

And then . . . I met The Dash.

He was amazing. During the first full day we spent with him and his family, I was increasingly attracted to his admirable traits (all the ones listed above, and more!). And yet . . . he was an entirely different temperament than what I was convinced I needed in order to be complemented and to be myself.

How was it that my hair was a horrible mess from swimming and air-drying; how was it that my makeup was mostly washed off, and yet none of these things bothered me? I liked him, I wanted to talk to him, and he had a maturity and intentness that guided our conversations and made me feel both engaged and respected.

As time went on, and my admiration grew, I was naturally a little shy and nervous around him–but also, I was myself. I was able to talk easily, and it eventually grew to flat-out rambling (Heaven help him). We started courting, and we grew increasingly more adept at laughing and teasing and conversing and understanding one another. I know it’s a journey we’ll always be on, but it started out on such a solid foundation, the beauty of it was undeniable to me.

So, Lesson #1: I learned how to be surprised by God. I learned He knows who I need. And I am so incredibly grateful for the way He chose to show me this!

2. Courtship takes time

You know . . . it really does.

Of course, it’s so important to have a plan for growth, especially in your initial intellectual and spiritual understanding of one another, and to follow that plan — in The Dash and I’s case, it meant spending the first few months going through a list of vital conversation topics, like finances, family structure, tradition, healthcare, corporal punishment, etc. — but at the same time . . . courtship is something that needs cultivation and patience as you discern.

Even if you are the two best people in the world, you are still going to run into snags and tricky situations in your courtship. Even though you are both striving for virtue and having frequent recourse to the Sacraments, you are still going to encounter one another’s imperfect humanity. Courtship doesn’t prevent this. In fact, it most likely enables this more sharply than a dating-style relationship would. This happens because the underpinning principles of Catholic courtship seek to cultivate a healthy realism between the young man and woman that will imitate how they will communicate and work together during a future married life. If you adhere to refraining from exclusive physical signs of affection during courtship, communication comes to the foreground, with all its fun and inherent challenges.

There will be times when, as a courting couple, a weakness will be exposed and you feel unequipped, afraid or frustrated. Maybe you don’t communicate as well in a given situation as you hoped you would. Maybe your feelings have been hurt. Maybe scheduling time together becomes difficult for a spell and things feel stagnant.

Each courtship is unique, and each couple who’s courted possesses their own story and timeline. One thing I’ve learned, however, is with courtship being so counter-cultural and so marriage-focused, in the face of so many modern relationships that sadly avoid commitment . . . the temptation can arise to where you want to figure out if you’re meant to be married, and to achieve it, as quickly as possible.

There is a lot of good behind this intention. However, there is alsoย so much value in a courtship taking a prudent amount of time. You see, there are the kinds of problems that are red-flags and should stop a courtship from continuing. But there are also the (more numerous) kinds of problems that are merely yellow-flags, and simply mean, take your time and work it out. While you should be discerning a potential marriage with this person from day one of your courtship, if you feel too rushed, you might inhibit the very foundation you are trying to build together.

This doesn’t mean you should be trying to find and resolve every potential problem before you get married. (That would be impossible and would surely drive you insane!) Rather, it means discerning the fertile middle ground between too fast and too slow, and letting your relationship flourish there, with the help of God’s grace.

3. Laugh

Courtship should be taken seriously . . . most of the time. It’s a time of purposeful discernment, and intentional conversations. But . . . having fun is so very necessary. Levity is necessary.

I’ve learned that shared laughter (over good and wholesome things) builds joy, as well as a pure fondness for one another. Whether it’s come from an expertly aimed splash while washing dishes, or just playing a game with a little kid, memories of The Dash and I laughing are some of my favorite memories of all.

If God intends your relationship to bloom into the kind of friendship that dwells in a marriage, you have to be able to laugh together, both over the funny things, as well as the hard. Laughter refines your perspective. It shrinks your problems to their legitimate size, and it elevates your gratitude to where it should be.

Even yesterday, The Dash and I were on the phone at the end of long, somewhat frustrating days. And even as we communicated the frustrations and our mutual drained-ness to one another, we just started laughing. (I’m sanguine . . . I may have started it . . . ) We came away a little more energized, and certainly much happier.

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This is one of my favorite-ever pictures ofย  us ๐Ÿ˜€

 

4. You will never regret telling the truth

Truth can be given with charity and tact–but it needs to be true nonetheless. Especially if something is genuinely (and not pettily) wrong . . . don’t hide it. It may make things more difficult momentarily, but truth has to be your courtship’s foundation because Our Lord, Who Is Truth, has to be your foundation. Otherwise everything will crumble to ruin. The Dash and I are both conflict avoiders by nature, and this resolution has been so important for me to embrace.

Because, after all, there is a difference between complaining about everything and simply being truthful when necessary. The latter makes a courtship succeed. It builds a precedent of truth, and truth builds trust; trust builds openness; openness builds love and being cherished.

5. Pray, pray, and then pray some more

Masses, Novenas, Rosaries, Adoration, patron saints, special daily prayers you pick out together . . .ย  because marriage is forever. Marriage is also under attack and in many places has been destroyed. By seeking to go about a relationship in a pure and noble manner, you are under attack. Satan hates what you are doing; the spirit of the world hates what you are doing; the flesh hates what you are doing.

Pray! Go to Our Blessed Mother. Go to St. Joseph. Go to patron saints who are special to your courtship. Depending on how things are going, you may not feel like you need protection. But you always, always do!

6. Waiting is worth it

Again, if you wait to engage in exclusive physical expressions of affection during your courtship (as is just), I’ve learned that these things become enshrined in your mind and heart as incredibly special. Thinkย The Princess and the Kiss.

Once you become betrothed and moderated expressions are licit, and of course once you’re married, these exclusive expressions of affection are, no doubt, an amazing privilege.

I can say with all honesty that to be on the threshold of a not-yet-enjoyed privilege brings incomparable feelings of excitement and peace. To be able to look forward to doing something like holding hands in conjunction with the unity and blessed promise of betrothal is deeply heartwarming . . . and undeniably just. I have never been happier that we have waited on expressions like these than now, when we are eight months in, and have more love and affection for one another than we ever did previously.

7. Don’t try to do it alone

Everyone’s courting situation is going to be a little different; I’ve mentioned before that The Dash and I have been blessed to have a courtship that is deeply family-oriented. But I’ve learned that even if a courtship can’t be quite so family-oriented for whatever reason: in some way, shape, or fashion, and depending on the people God has surrounded you with, it isn’t wise to try to make your courtship work alone.

Of course, after God, the two of you are the essential elements of your courtship . . . but God has placed others in your lives for a reason. They often have a wisdom you don’t yet possess. At this point, you are a fledgling couple and you aren’t on a metaphorical island–in fact, it would be dangerous on multiple levels if you were. If you are blessed with wonderful parents and siblings/ married couples/ priests/ friends you trust . . . listen to their intuitions (with prudence, depending on how much trust they’ve merited. Parents are always at the top of the list).

If they offer you advice and guidance, consider it humbly. If you are blessed with good parents, it will be a very rare occurrence–indeed, if it ever happens–that you know better than they do. If they sense something is off-kilter in you . . . it probably is. If they suggest you talk about something in your courtship . . . you most likely should.

To this day, my parents have never been wrong ๐Ÿ™‚

8. Finally, count the months

Because you’re doing something really special, and every new month is worthy of celebration and gratitude! If God intends your courtship to flourish and eventually turn into something greater, you will be amazed at how quickly time goes by and how much you have been blessed . . . just as I am amazed today ๐Ÿ˜‰

Sig

 

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On the eve of May

JMJ1

I’ve been waiting to find it again for what seems like so long.

Before today, I’d seen it only once before: and that was several years ago, on EWTN’s Litany of Loreto, quickly passing by in a slideshow of other sacred Marian images. They were all beautiful. But this one . . . it struck me silent. I have never seen anything like it, before or since. I have never seen anyone paint her in this way. Her hands are clasping Him tightly. Her head is tilted back so far. Her face is suffused with intensity and bliss.

But even more simply, it’s her look. It’s her inhalation. Her pure mouth is partially open with it. It’s as if for one moment, we see her as only Christ ever saw her: full of ecstasy, full of grace, completely possessed by God, and possessing Him with an intimacy that surpasses our understanding: Theotokos. Truly, it’s a portrait of total possession and total surrender, manifested beyond compare in the Immaculate Heart of Our Lady.

Anyway . . .ย  as I watched the Litany of Loreto, in the span of four or five seconds, this painting came and went — and I had no idea whatsoever of how to find it again! I searched on and off for a few days across the internet, but eventually the research petered out.

Vaguely, in an honestly more whimsical than prayerful way, I entertained hopes that Our Lord might nudge it back into my life somehow . . . maybe someone would give it to me in a moment of significance, etc. It was strange how several years went by, and yet occasionally the memory of that painting would come back to me. I was silly enough to never make a direct, prayerful request to find the painting again. Possibly because it felt a little trifling. And yet at the same time, I kept sensing a recurring combination of humorous mystery and certainty that Our Lord most probably would bring it back to me, when I was least looking for it. (Most likely, this is totally a woman thing. But I digress.)

This morning, I casually clicked onto a website, and there it was.

Right in front of me!

Virginandmothermostholy

These past few weeks have been consumed with busyness; planning, projects, responsibilities, and the mental clutter that comes from it all. Today has certainly been a microcosm of that! Because of this busyness, I had completely lost sight of the fact that today is the last day of April. Which means, obviously, that tomorrow is the first day of May. Her month!

What a blessing to be sent such a heavenly reminder as this! Tomorrow is especially busy, and as it’s also the feast of her blessed spouse St. Joseph the Worker (which The Dash and I have been looking forward to, with the novena ending today!), this fact thatย herย month is beginning tomorrow might have totally slipped past me if it weren’t for finding this painting again, and eventually realizing on what day, exactly, I’d been given it. God is very good. It’s come at such a sweetly perfect time, when all is busy, when my prayer and life of virtue suffers in little and less-little ways because of my own laziness and lack of courage, and struggle and discouragement begin to creep in. It’s time to give it all to Our Lady, again, and re-embrace my Total Consecration (a good preparation for when I start my annual renewal on September 4th!).

So I’m off to reflect a little on what I, a slave of Mary, can do to make this upcoming month a gift to Our Lady. I’m not sure what it looks like yet. I’ll be taping this image in my Missal, for a start!

I pray your May is blessed with Our Lady’s choicest care for you, and that your devotion to, and love of her is deeply renewed. I would be so grateful if you prayed the same for me!

Sig

 

Isn’t it wonderful?

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Today marked my last day of tutoring for this school year. My miniature adventure of a once-a-week sixty-mile round trip, of teaching in a classroom, of bonding and laughing and learning with a bright group of girls: an adventure that fell into my lap without me at all expecting it, is already (temporarily) over!

I feel as though, just this morning, I walked into the classroom for the first time, blinked once–and now I find myself home again, with my plastic blue bin of supplies sitting in the kitchen corner, in a state of semi-retirement. My two quarters of teaching are over; the year’s finished. How is it already over?! “Well, I’m back,” he said.

Until this evening, I hadn’t fully realized just how much a part of the fabric of my week all these young girls and their varied personalities and talents had become. And their mothers, too! They are all so unique and delightful in their own ways, and all so sweet to me. What an enriching experience these past four months have been for me; I’ve certainly learned far more than any of the girls I taught! Although I’m thankful for the break, I’m growing increasingly conscious of just how much I’m going to miss them!

Next week, there’s an end-of-the-year picnic for the co-op, so perhaps it won’t really seem “over” until that’s come and gone . . .

But that’s that!

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After I’d gotten back home this afternoon, I closed my eyes for ten minutes, drank some (much-needed!!!) caffeinated tea, played a card game with my two youngest sibs, and talked for a while with The Dash on the phone. And then I came downstairs and found my parents rummaging through old pictures, laughing at themselves, reminiscing over old days with the deep love and ease of a beautiful, seasoned marriage nearly twenty-five years old. It was a delightful thing to watch them and quietly drink in their example of love for my future marriage ๐Ÿ™‚

After supper, I cleaned up the kitchen, using the CD player I’d employed every week for co-op to now play some Sinatra while I wiped counters. Words can’t suffice for the contentment I experience in cleaning the kitchen . . . though it’s a mystery to some I know . . .

A few minutes ago, from out in the backyard, Dad called the home phone from his cell, explaining he needed the container of gasoline that’s currently in the garage. I slid into some old shoes and walked down the slope of our back hill, feet squelching in the wet grass, carrying gasoline . . . and noticing the riot of flowers!

Having delivered the gasoline, (conscious of my reputation as a house cat) I paused to soak in the evening quiet, then slipped back inside to grab my camera.

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Isn’t it wonderful? Life, I mean! Life imbued with God’s love and grace, most especially in the small things; in the eager, animated face of a young girl; in an evening blooming with flowers; in a man and wife laughing over old pictures; in a walk down the hill with a gasoline can.

Today, by the way, is the feast of St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen, Martyr; the altar of my home parish holds one of his relics! I wish I could have visited it today, but in lieu of that, I’ll be praying especially for his intercession.

From Lena’s bedroom, I hear Voces8’s “Pie Jesu,” and am gently reminded of people who have recently passed away, including the souls of two holy shepherds, one a priest, the other a bishop. The bishop confirmed my younger brother and youngest sister and frequently visited our parish. The priest I never met, but was by all accounts a saintly father and very dear to The Dash’s family. Would you offer a small prayer for both of their souls? Thank you!

Pie Jesu, Domine; dona eis requiem, dona eis requiem.

I’ll leave this post with a quote from St. Fidelis:

โ€œWoe to me if I should prove myself but a halfhearted soldier in the service of my thorn-crowned Captain.โ€

Let’s let his words inspire the rest of our week as we strive to sanctify, for God, all the challenges and work we must undergo!

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Sig

7 Rambling Monday Takes, Vol. 12 :: Weddings, Rain, and Oven Cleaning

MondayTakes

Explore previous rambling installments here ๐Ÿ™‚

1.

“Was this lovely song I hear ever heard before?”

Well, it’s yet another Monday, and after a morning spent scooting around the house, catching up, scheduling, planning, and laundering, I am digesting lunch (which is a wonderful sensation) and contentedly listening to John Davidson and Leslie Ann Warren jubilantly sing “Are We Dancing?” while crafting a quick Rambling Takes post. (The Happiest Millionaire has at least a dozen of my heartstrings, by the way.)

This song, you see, is part of a 90-minute dance playlist concocted and self-arranged for a particular celebration still in the works (I have nineteen days [only nineteen?!?] left of planning . . . ) . . . oh, but now the song has just passed over to “My Girl” by The Temptations . . .

I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day . . .”

Yes, indeed, cloudy . . . I texted The Dash this morning, telling him (optimistically) to enjoy the sunshine (yesterday had been cloudy/drizzly/downright pouring all day), and yet inevitably it has already been pouring here again. So much for the optimism! Hopefully this deluge will bring some May flowers ๐Ÿ™‚

“It’s very clear our love is here to stay . . .”

And now comes a crooner . . . *sigh*, it’s going to be a good afternoon ๐Ÿ˜‰

2.

CoupleI feel as though I perpetually exist in a romantic frame of mind, but when I’ve made a list of 90 musical minutes of old-fashioned, classic romance, am planning a celebration for married love, and when I’ve just attended a wedding over the weekend . . . why not delve into those happy thoughts a little more deeply than usual? ๐Ÿ˜‰

“Unforgettable, that’s what you are . . .”

(This playlist isn’t helping much, I suppose.)

This wedding I attended with my family and The Dash was the first wedding I’d been to in years. It was the first fully Catholic wedding I’d been to since I was around sixteen, and that wedding, I sang for (I actually sang for a string of about six weddings in a row when I was fifteen years old; a unique phase of life!). So, really, it had been quite a while since we’d all gotten dressed up in expectation of a wedding. I pulled out a long floral dress I hardly ever wear–it comes to the floor, but miraculously I managed not to trip over it or downright rip it. And to be able to go to a wedding with The Dash! Bliss! ๐Ÿ™‚

“I can’t help myself; I love you and nobody else . . .”

But . . . an Extraordinary Form wedding is indescribably gorgeous, moving and so very different from anything I’d attended previously. Granted, I’ve read the old Rite of Marriage only a thousand times since owning my Missal. I’ve only gushed about it with Lena three thousand times.

But to be able to witness it with Lena, The Dash, and my family, filled me with so much joy. It was at our diocesan Cathedral; every one of the altar boys was a good friend; the priests were all dear to us; the bride and groom were just beaming, radiant, full of love and right intention. The liturgy had the solemnity borne of ancientness. It was amazing in so many respects.

“Fly me to the moon, let me play among the stars . . .”

That, by the way, was their first dance song at the reception . . . ahh, fellow Sinatra lovers! I could have hugged them both! They were so precious together. Truly, I’ve never seen a more joyous and delighted bride (and she was beautifully modest, too).

3.

In an Extraordinary Form wedding, the entire marriage rite takes place before the Mass even begins, which means that the very first act the married couple makes as husband and wife is one of worshiping together at Mass. That is so beautiful! ๐Ÿ™‚

While I’m on this thought, let’s have a read-through of the traditional vows as found in the ’62 Missal, shall we?

Priest: N., wilt thou take N., here present, for thy lawful wife (husband), according to the Rite of our holy Mother the Church?
R. I will.

(Groom, then bride): I, N., take thee, N., for my wedded wife (husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness, and in health, till death do us part; and thereto I plight thee my troth.

The last phrase is just deliciously old (in my opinion). In my limited experience, sometimes it’s omitted (maybe depending on the tastes of the bride and groom), and so I figured I would research the exact meaning of the phrase before I go trumpeting it to everyone as something I would appreciate saying in my own wedding.

Dictionary.com’s definition of “troth” is as follows:

Noun
1. faithfulness, fidelity, or loyalty:

by my troth.
2. truth or verity: in troth.

Aha, well, it all sounds worthy so far . . . delving a little deeper, I visit Yahoo!Answers. Not that it’s exactly a paragon of authority, but as this search is propelled by mere curiosity, I am going easy on myself with regards to sources.
“Trothโ€ means a promise of truthfulness, and is derived from the same word as โ€œtruthโ€. “Plight thee my troth” – The groom pledges his truthfulness, faithfulness and loyalty to his promise. “Give thee my troth” – The bride likewise gives her word.
And to round off this clarifying experience, an extract from Answers.com:

“Troth” means a promise of truthfulness, and is derived from the same word as “truth.” Plight means pledge.

So, judging by dictionary definitions, to plight one’s troth simply means to pledge one’s truth: one’s fidelity. While all of this is already more than implied, of course, in the vows themselves, I think it’s still something beautiful to say!

4.

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Today, I’ve just started reading Venerable Fulton J. Sheen’s Three to Get Married. I feel badly because, up until this point, and merely by accident, I’ve never read any of his works or seen any of his old shows (to the shock of The Dash, who is now completely convinced of how sheltered I am)–I don’t think I’ve even heard his voice! And, judging by the first chapter, what a poverty that is.

Even his dedication for the book is so profound:

It takes three to make Love in Heaven – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

It takes three for Heaven to make love to earth – God, Man, and Mary, through whom God became Man.

It takes three to make love in the Holy Family – Mary, and Joseph, and the consummation of their love, Jesus.

It takes three to make love in hearts – The Lover, the Beloved, and Love.

To that Woman who taught the sublime mystery of Love, Mary Immaculate, this book is dedicated.

That nations, hearts, and homes may learn that love does not so much mean to give oneself to another to that Passionless Passion, Which is God.

5.

I took a break while writing this post to go take another walk with my mom at our nearby lake. Yes, it rained today. Yes, all things were squelchy, muddy, dirty–but they were also glistening, rich, perfumed and intense. As we walked and chatted, the cloudiness dissipated under warm sun and the air grew slightly humid. My hair didn’t appreciate it much, but nevertheless, it was a peaceful, invigorating half-hour spent with my mother ๐Ÿ™‚ I am so determined to make regular outdoor walks a part of the normalcy of my future family life!

6.

Ah, yes, the aforementioned oven cleaning. I’m a complete novice when it comes to oven cleaning, and if I hope to be the queen of a particular castle sometime in the not-too-distant future, it stands to reason that I had better know how to clean one. And so, today, I’ve sprayed it, left it to sit for two or three hours, and am going to begin scrubbing away within the next half-hour. Hopefully there won’t be any disasters. We have egg rolls scheduled for tonight, and I refuse to be the one to ruin everyone’s dinner ๐Ÿ˜‰

7.

A letter from a pen pal came in today! I am delighted ๐Ÿ™‚ And it’s made me reflect on how blessed I am with the all correspondences God has placed in my life. Here’s to rebuilding a culture of actually writing to one another, of taking time to craft paragraphs, to ramble, to express hopes and dreams, to make jokes, to be genuine. To use words, and to mean them. That’s how some of my dearest friendships today started out. It’s how The Dash and I started out. It doesn’t necessarily have to be pen and paper (although it’s wonderful and so authentic if it can be done!), but the time is what is essential. Before you know it, thousands and thousands of words have crossed the space between you and another soul, building understanding and friendship as you pursue truth together; the truth that comes only from Our Lord.

Have a blessed Monday, everyone, and . . . a very happy feast of dear St. George, Martyr! I know Lena is excited today ๐Ÿ™‚

Sig

Views from my afternoon walk

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Sixty degrees, breezy, sunny. . . that, my friends, is the recipe for a perfect afternoon walk by the lake, and I was blessed to have one just now! Recently, I have rediscovered how refreshing going outdoors is and how much it uplifts the spirit. It has pulled me away from stress, worries, and the hum of technology, and has helped me unwind my mind . . . and believe me, these past few days have certainly had their share of thoughts and considerations in need of un-winding!

Especially after the aforementioned 5K, I’ve found taking a brisk (yet still relaxed) outdoor walk to be such a simple thing, and yet so restorative. So please forgive the poor quality of these washed-out, unedited phone pictures and absorb the lovely scenery and the adorable little goslings ๐Ÿ™‚ (And perhaps next time I’ll remember to take my actual camera, like one wise older gentleman had done! He was contentedly snapping pictures left and right while we were there.)

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Sig