Wednesday, October 26, 2016

It's A Surprise

Ocqueoc Falls, MI
Growing up, our family went on quite a few "surprise" outings.  We (the children) were not told where we were going.  Just to get dressed, bring whatever needed (swimsuits; food; etc.), and get in the car.  As an oldest child and a type-A personality (for the most part), it was extremely hard for me NOT to be in control or to have knowledge of what we were doing or where we were going.  But every time, it ended up being a great trip.  My fondest memory of these trips is when my mother and my sisters and I were on vacation for the summer, and she took us to Ocqueoc Falls for the first time.  It was such a wonderful trip, and so much fun to swim in the falls.  It's a great memory (one that we repeated many times later), and I will always cherish it.

As I think about having my own children, I look back at these memories and think about how much they taught me.  I learned to trust my parents.  That they were in charge, and that my duty as their child was to follow their instructions.  I learned to go with the flow . . . well, started learning that anyway.  

Sidebar: That's a part of myself that I've been working on for years . . . basically my whole life.  I've never been very good at changing plans, especially last minute, or being late to anything.  I'm the "early = on time; on time = late" type person.  But real life is not that easy nor ordered.  It's messy.  And I've cried a lot of tears when reality didn't match my nice, neat, organized plan.  My nanny job helped immensely with my ability to "go with the flow" . . . they weren't exactly the most organized family.  Law school helped some, and my amazing husband has definitely helped the most.  I guess that's what happens when you pair me with a man who lives his life day to day, down to the wire.  Maybe a bit too close to the wire for my comfort, but we've been balancing each other out . . . and it's incredible.  The decrease in my stress levels when the plans change again is amazing.  Just one more skill I'm developing for when I have children.

Some day, I hope to have cute kids like this little girl.
Ok.  Back to the children.  And memories.  And surprise outings.  Given my growth in flexibility and spontaneity (which for me means planning something the day of or the day before rather than weeks in advance), I'm excited to create memories with my future children the same as my parents created with me.  I can't wait to toss them all into the van, pull out the drive, and take them to a museum or the beach or a park or whatever!  To share those experiences with them.  To expose them to the goodness that they can learn.  To soak up every moment.  (Another perk of homeschooling . . . the freedom to ACTUALLY DO THIS!)

And in the meantime, without children, I'm excited to create the same memories with my husband.  Whether it's a dinner out where we stumble across a music festival or a spontaneous trip to the beach, I'm blessed by his leadership and flexibility and ability to lead us on our lifetime adventure.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Encouraging Creativity

Being creative is good for your brain.  It can reduce stress and boost your self-esteem and feeling of accomplishment.  Art, through whatever medium, can accomplish this.  I recently attended a painting class for a friend's bachelorette party.  It was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed creating something!  I've been an amateur photographer for over a decade, and I always thought that was my mode of artistic expression.  

Art runs in my family, on both sides.  My maternal grandfather is a painter, a sculptor, a carver.  My paternal grandmother and aunt are painters extraordinaire.  My sisters are all drawers and designers.  And me, I take good pictures.  I never thought I had much hand for drawing or painting, which is why I've stuck solely with photography for so many years.  But that painting class drew my artistic blood out and got the creative juices flowing.

One thing led to another (with some helpful persuasion from my artist aunt), and I was walking out of Hobby Lobby with paints, brushes, and canvases . . . ready for a little foray into the world of painting.  Little did I know how much I would enjoy the creative work or how quickly I would want to paint more and more.

My first project, a letter "M" for my new last name, turned into all of the letters.  I really enjoyed this project . . . blending the backgrounds on the letters so that they coordinated and then adding different flowers to them and adding gold embellishments in the form of accents and quotations.  The results make me feel happy and joyful when I see them . . . and I know I'll keep painting or drawing or pursuing art.  And I will encourage my future children to do the same.

I likewise encourage you to pursue art . . . in whatever form you choose.  Give yourself the opportunity to relax and lose yourself in the work.  Don't focus too much on making it perfect.  Just make it yours.  Go outside and paint God's creation.  Let His handicraft inspire your own.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Living the Vocation

As I was folding laundry this weekend, someone mentioned how a housewife's work is never done.  And to a certain extent, they're right.  There is always something else to be done - laundry to wash and fold; meals to prepare and cook; rooms to clean and organize; people to tend and care for.  And in the midst of working a "normal job" full time (for the time being at least), it can seem overwhelming when I think about it too much.  But that's when I remember that I'm living out my vocation as a wife (and hopefully a mother soon).  I look at the piles of clean laundry and the scrubbed counters and the meals prepared, and I feel a sense of accomplishment and success.  Yes, I'm definitely tired and absolutely wish my alarm didn't go off at 6am every morning, but that hasn't affected my attitude towards my work.

My vocation is as a wife and mother.  I firmly believe that.  I've been married for a month already (time is literally flying by), and it has been amazing.  People ask how I like married life, and I tell them I love it.  And it's true.  I have a wonderful husband.  He encourages me and supports me.  He helps out when I need help.  And he always shows appreciation for the work that I do - packing lunch; doing laundry; keeping the house clean.  And I take great joy from creating a home for us to live in and to raise our future family in.  

As the days go by, I thank God for leading me down this path.  I'll be the first to tell you that I often felt that I was late to the marriage game (I wanted to be married with children right out of college).  But the past four years have shown me, more than ever, that God has a plan.  And how amazing that plan is when you submit to it and follow it.  God sent me to law school, where I met my husband.  And where I grew into a more confident, well-rounded woman, better prepared for my vocation and to support and help my husband in any way he needs.  

As this post rambles on, I realize I should get a little more organized with my posts in the future.  So I'll end with this: There is always hope.  You may feel stuck where you're at.  You may feel like God isn't listening or isn't helping.  But I want to assure you that faith and trust in Him, and willful submission to His plan will give you the greatest peace and sense of security.  Keeping in mind that our goal is Heaven, we can better get through our day to day life on Earth.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Necessary Incompatibilities of Marriage

Divorce of Josephine and Napoleon.
There is the idea among many people in the modern age that any "incompatibility" serves as an indication that two people should not stay together, nor should they be required to adapt to those incompatibilities.  The advent of no-fault divorce perpetuated this idea through the United States of America.

Quite to the contrary, as Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, "We're not abnormal if we have certain tensions. . . . for example, a tension between body and soul . . . between what [an individual] is and what he ought to be."  There are tensions in all aspects of life and between all people.  Does that mean we should abandon our friends, ignore our coworkers, and push away our family?  Of course not!

Archbishop Fulton Sheen discusses marriage and incompatibility in the following video, and my discussion afterwards is a brief summary with my thoughts intertwined.

"Was there ever in the world a perfectly compatible couple?"  
Archbishop Fulton Sheen
I'm sure we've all seen the "perfect couple" - but more likely than not, we caught only a glimpse of what their relationship truly is.  In any marriage, as in any relationship, there are tensions between the spouses - between husband and wife.  These include the tension between things held in common vs. differences, sex vs. love (whereas the first can separate the act and the person, which is not good while the second incorporates the first and is concerned with the whole person.)  

How do we resolve these tensions?  Archbishop Fulton Sheen gives two methods, both applicable in marriage and outside of it, and both utilized at various points within marriage.

Wedding of Nicholas II and Alexandra.
First, he says, "The only way one can ever escape the mediocrity from a barrenness in love and affection is by some kind of sacrifice or self-denial.  Love never mounts to a higher level without a death to a lower level."  Married love is typically a life of ups and downs.  Some may think that that is just how married life is and that we simply need to weather the storms to arrive at the happy points again.  But that essentially stagnates a marriage, where the couple tends to simply co-exist and get through life rather than growing closer to each other and to God.  

How do we reach the higher level?  According to Sheen, "It [love] goes to a higher level through a sacrifice."  
"Marriage will go along in this dull, drab line or else be nothing but troughs and swells UNLESS every now and then there comes a moment where the ego is crushed.  There has to be the unfolding of a mystery.  Then there is something noble."  
It is in the dying to oneself and serving the other that love can truly grow and ascend higher.  It is through this mutual self-sacrifice between the husband and wife that draws them closer together.  A sample "crisis" is the birth of a new child.  "Egotism has to be crushed in the husband and wife [when a new child is born].  The new life demands some kind of surrender."  

As he says, "The only truly progressive thing in the world is love. . . . It feeds on only one kind of food - the crushing of the ego and the beginning of the living for another."  We are all called to be saints.  Some may say that sainthood can only be achieved by extraordinary sacrifice and monumental achievements for the Lord.  Rather, "[w]hat makes the saint is the one who is willing at each and every crisis of his life to make some act of self-denial.  Then love truly is an ascension, both the love of man for woman and the love of a soul for God."

The second method for resolving the tensions between these incompatibilities is an infusion.  "The richer helping the poorer.  The stronger helping the weaker.  There is such a thing as an infusion."  "It is possible to have an infusion between husband and wife."  Between husband and wife, infusions happen on various levels - physical; mental; spiritual.  Of these, the spiritual is the most important.  "For the unbelieving husband is consecrated through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is consecrated through her husband." 1 Corinthians 7:14.  Fulton Sheen says, "The faith, the goodness, the virtue can pass from one to the other."  A husband can lead his wife to God, and a wife her husband, by their virtue and example and support.  One of the primary functions of marriage is to get your spouse to Heaven.  As St. Francis of Assisi said, "Preach the Gospel at all times.  When necessary, use words."  Our example to our spouse and to our children can be one of the strongest tools we have to assist them in their path to salvation.  There is another saying that you are the company you keep.  If your spouse keeps your company, and you are a faithful and virtuous example, they will begin to imitate you.  And vice versa.

Ultimately, in marriage and in life, 
"There are incompatibilities, but there must be.  Yes, the chase in a certain sense takes away the thrill of the capture, but there ought to be a way in which we can have both.  And there actually is, and that is Heaven.  When we capture perfect love, then we will need an infinity of chase in order to enjoy the eternity of the capture of that passionless passion and wild tranquility which is love divine."
Embrace them.  Seek the truth.  Pursue the faith.  Love your spouse and your children.  Put your all into getting them to Heaven, and they should do likewise.  And together, with God's abundant grace, you may attain it.