Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Things every new wife needs

  1. Patience
  2. Basic cooking skills
  3. Earplugs
  4. Lingerie
  5. 3 good cookbooks
  6. Ring holder
  7. "The Power of a Praying Wife" by Stormie O'Martian
  8. Bible -- specifically, a Bible for couples
  9. 4 - 12 nice place settings
  10. Her own bathroom sink
 March 2008, sunset at Iguana Grill in Austin

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

25 things you didn't know about us

  1. We were certified to scuba dive together and try to dive whenever we can when traveling.  We've dove in Cozumel, Mexico; Destin, FL; Cancun, Mexico; Placencia, Belize; and Austin, TX.  Mark's also dove a few other places.
  2. We would love to dive the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
  3. We meet Mark's side of the family every Sunday afternoon for Family Meal.
  4. Our first kiss could have been on March 1, 2006, but that was Ash Wednesday and Mark didn't want to "endulge" in anything that day because of the self-denial significance of that day of observance.  So he waited until just after midnight to plant one.  Our anniversary became March 2.
  5. The movie "French Kiss" was on in the background.
  6. Mark told me he loved me for the first time on our one year anniversary.
  7. Our first vacation together was to Destin, FL -- Jen's Heaven.
  8. The first homecooked dinner we had as husband and wife upon returning from our honeymoon was Italian roasted pork tenderloin. The reason I know this is because every time I make a recipe from one of my cookbooks, I date it, list the occasion and my thoughts on it!  I love this.
  9. We pray together every night before going to sleep.  Even when we're apart if one of us is traveling.
  10. We take turns leading nightly prayer.
  11. Ever since we began dating, we try to read two different books of the Bible together every week.  We're trying to get through Job right now.  Wow, that guy just goes on and on.
  12. Neither one of us likes mushrooms.
  13. We've both worked for the Catholic Church.  Mark worked for two years as youth minister at St. Thomas More Catholic Church, and I've now worked as the director of ministries at Saint Mary Cathedral and St. John Neumann Catholic Church.
  14. We enjoy finding new places to spend date night.
  15. We have a shoe rule at our house: Mark's allowed to leave one pair of shoes laying around in any room (if we don't have company coming over).  If there is more than one pair laying around, Jen's allowed to put them up.
  16. We co-led a small faith-sharing group in the Catholic 20-Somethings Ministry while we were dating.
  17. We really enjoy working on the house and making it more and more our own.  We have a long Google docs project list where we keep crossing off projects and adding on more.
  18. I have played with the idea of having four kids someday. Mark says he wants 2.5 kids because that's the average number of kids per American family.  I'm interested to know how he plans on having half a child.

  19. We smoke cigars from time to time, usually on special occasions.  Mine are always the little flavored ones.
  20. I love going to weddings.
  21. Mark is not a fan.
  22. We both drive SUVs.  I have a 4runner; Mark has an Explorer.
  23. Our legs are the same length.
  24. We both blog.  Mark's can be found at http://austindates.blogspot.com.
  25. Our last name is pronounced "crow" (as in the bird) "lee" -- "crow-lee."  You've probably heard other Crowleys pronounced "krow" (rhymes with "plow") "lee."  Mark says his ancestors changed the pronunciation because the author of the satanic bible is Aleister Crowley ("krow-lee"), and they didn't want to be associated with him.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Superpowers in marriage

This morning, I read a question that asked me what superpower I'd like to have in marriage.

Hmmmm ... time travel comes to mind.  Being able to see into our future life, 10, 20, 50 years down the road seems like it would be neat, but then again, it takes the fun and excitement out of growing together.  I do love surprises, and I'm sure those surprises will be what brings me and Mark closer together through the years.

Sometimes telepathy sounds like it would be beneficial to have.  There are plenty of times when I can't tell what Mark's thinking.  He's not as vocal about his feelings as I can be, but then again, he's also not as opinionated as I can be.  If I could read his thoughts, though, I think it would take the fun out of conversation.  What point would there be in conversing much at all?  Sounds kind of boring -- just sitting there and putting a few words out there every now and then and just hearing his reaction without him saying a thing.  Also, because we're not perfect humans, it's not so easy to control our thoughts.  We all know they whirl around by themselves, thinking good and bad things.  That's why I like to practice using what I like to call a filter.  Thinking before you speak.  I'm sure if I could read Mark's thoughts, we'd argue a lot more because he wouldn't have the chance to think about what he wanted to say before speaking, putting together his thoughts eloquently.  Also, sometimes things just don't need to be said -- if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.  That would pretty much go out the window if I could read his thoughts.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Mark has negative thoughts all of the time.  I just think we'd both be happier if he (and I both) has the ability to use filters to be purposeful and deliberate in conversation. 

I think the superpower I'd like to have in marriage would be the ability to be loving at all times.  Even though it's something for which we all strive, we fail more times than we can count.  If I could consistently be patient, kind, gentle, caring, loving, selfless, humble and understanding effortlessly, that would be cool.  Mark would think so, too, I think.

Since I doubt I'll be bestowed with any superpowers in the near future, I guess I'll continue to work toward the one I'd desire and try to earn it on my own.  That's the point, isn't it?

January 2010, Keystone, CO trip

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Seeing myself more clearly

I can read nonfiction books from time to time.  Self-help, practical, how-to books (and biographies) are books I can read if I can find the time and motivation.  Fiction books aren't my thing; I can't shake the feeling that I'm wasting my time when I could be doing something more practical.  Call it the productivity monster in me.

I've never tried listening to an audiobook, so I was excited to recently get one from Amazon the other day to try to listen to while I'm driving so I don't have to find extra time to sit down and read.  It's called "The Power of Prayer to Change Your Marriage" by Stormie O'Martian.  She's written all of the "The Power of (a Praying Husband / Wife, a Praying Parent, Praying for Your Adult Children, etc.)" books, which I love because they give you great prayers to reflect upon in your relationships.  "The Power of Prayer to Change Your Marriage" isn't just for struggling marriages, as you might think upon reading the title; instead, it's a book that offers prayers and reflections on strengthening your marriage, especially in areas where one or more of you might be weaker than others.

I just started it yesterday and have only gotten through one chapter but something has already struck me and offered opportunity for reflection -- how being married opens your eyes, quite widely, to see your own shortcomings.  I don't remember the exact phrasing, but let me explain.

I think it's safe to say that I've been at least somewhat aware of my own weaknesses and character flaws as an adult.  Through examinations of conscience over the years to relational communications with the different people in my life, the ways in which I fall short of being perfect have been made quite aware to me.

Now that I'm married, though, I find myself continuously noticing and becoming more and more aware of those ways.  I meet once a month with a spiritual director and every other week with an accountability partner, and both of these individuals help me to seek out those ways in which I can improve myself, as a Catholic, daughter, employee, friend, sister, co-worker, leader, follower and wife, among the other roles I play.  Every time Mark and I have a disagreement or I feel any disarray about something in our marriage, I see a new perspective on my behavior, how I can try to stop changing Mark and start working on myself.

More than ever, I can see where I need God's grace.  Mark may say something about the way I'm acting; he may not.  It may be my own guilt and examination of conscience that allows me to see myself through his eyes, and then I may say something about how I will try to improve; I may not say something.  Many times, I just resolve to work on something myself or tell my spiritual director and accountability partner and see how altering my behavior or approach may improve mine and Mark's marriage over time.

Being able to see your faults more clearly is not a bad thing, though.  I don't think it means that I'm any more of a sinner or that I'm a bad person since we got married.  I just think it means I have more opportunities to ask and receive God's grace to become the person He's called me to become.  Mark's helping me to get to Heaven, and I know he's there to assist God in helping me become the saint God's called me to become.  [*We're all called to become saints -- not just me! :)]

I consider it a blessing, most days (!), that I can see ways in which I can improve.  I know trying to become a better wife will only help me to become a better everything else -- Catholic, daughter, employee, friend, sister, co-worker, leader, follower, etc.

I have a looooong road to go and I don't even know the half of it, but I have hope and faith that I can travel it and enjoy the ride.  I'm so thankful to have Mark there to encourage me along the way.

Halloween 2007

Thursday, March 11, 2010

St. Valentine, pray for us. St. Monica, pray for me.

A patron saint is one who has been assigned by a venerable tradition, or chosen by election, as a special intercessor with God and the proper advocate of a particular cause and is honored with a special form of religious observance.  I was aware that St. Valentine is the patron saint of marriages, but I discovered this morning that St. Monica, mother of the great St. Augustine, is the patron saint of wives. 

St. Valentine also happens to be Mark's confirmation / patron saint he chose for himself upon receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation while he was in high school.  Everyone has heard of this saint because of the February holiday, but many may not know the actual story of St. Valentine's life or why he is a saint as declared by the Church.  According to Catholic Online, St. Valentine was martyred around 270 by the Roman Emperor Claudius II Gothicus because he continued to marry young couples even though Claudius forbade it. Apparently Claudius thought that married soldiers weren't as good as single soldiers. 

Almost all we know about St. Monica (~322 - 387) is from the writings of St. Augustine.  According to AmericanCatholic.org, "the circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism."

Married couples and wives are blessed to have these two fabulous holy people intercessing for us, if we ask them to.  I have personally found it inspiring to read the biographies of saints to learn from them as faulted human beings like myself as we stumble on the path to holiness.  It would do me well, therefore, to read more about St. Monica in being a loving, patient, gentle and prayerful wife.  Any good readings on her about which anyone knows?

We are all called to be saints, and I often pray for Mark and I to be given the grace to become the saints to which we were called to become.  I wonder which cause(s) we could be patron saints of one day?  If you could choose your cause(s), of what would you be the patron saint?  Deep question!  Reflection on it might help you to steer your direction or find your purpose in life.  Hmmm ...

St. Valentine, pray for us!  St. Monica, pray for me!

Valentine's Day 2010

Friday, March 5, 2010

Catholic 20-Somethings Ministry = Cupid

There's a joke in the Catholic 20-Somethings Ministry "founder circle" about the relationships that have evolved from the ministry.  Now, I will defend the notion that the ministry is not a dating service, especially since it is not a singles ministry and is open to anyone in their 20s, regardless of vocation.  When I began the ministry in 2005, it was a specific goal of mine to avoid the notion all together.  I wanted people to grow in their faith and Christian fellowship, not come to ministry events just looking for a spouse.

Now looking at the ministry five years later (five years of 20-Somethings -- crazy?!), after having met my own husband through it, I can appreciate the fact that it has changed lives in bringing future spouses together, resulting in families.  In fact, it's sometimes hard not to become too proud of it.  I call it the Mother Hen in me -- a nickname given me after nurturing the ministry's birth and growth in its first three years.  Mother Hen Jen.

Marriages resulted from the 20-Somethings
  1. Me and Mark
  2. Katie and Paul 
  3. Claudia and Fernando
  4. Anne and Timberon
  5. Sara and Chauncy
  6. Chelsea and Jon (May 2010)
  7. Lauren and John (indirectly, May 2010)
  8. Jenn and Justin (engaged)
  9. Kimberly and Will (engaged)
  10. Alexandra and Matt
  11. Selina and Richard
  12. Michelle and Matt

Plus countless other currently dating couples.

AND now, what I like to call, 20-Somethings babies!  (Not mine, mind you -- I know I'll get questions about that.)
  1. Baby Barboza
  2. Baby Lo
I had to emphasize the last one as I'm proud to announce the impending birth of my niece, July 2010!  Katie and Paul are expecting, and the family is thrilled.  We couldn't be more excited to meet her.

So even though the 20-Somethings isn't meant to be utilized as a dating service or meat market, I'm grateful for the new life and love brought forth by it.  Every now and then, I might quietly still whisper, "You're welcome."  At least to my friend Matt!

 March 2006

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Four years together!

Today marks four years that Mark and I have been together!  Little did we know that first Bible study at my apartment that we would later become husband and wife.  Thanks for bringing him over for the study, Paul. :)  Here's to four times 444 and more years together!  Love you, hubby.

Cancun, Thanksgiving weekend 2009

The vocation of marriage talk ... given by newlyweds

So in our wise, wise stage of having been married eight months and having learned all there is to about the vocation of marriage and, of course, after having dated the most perfectly and holy-ily (is that a word?) way as possible, Mark and I were invited to come give a talk on the vocation of marriage to the St. John Neumann Church confirmation class for high school students.  Hahahahahahahah ... yea, I think it's safe to say that Mark and I were far from perfect in our dating relationship, and we've barely scraped the surface of our married life together.  "Two American kids doin' the best they can."  John Mellencamp-style.

In all honesty, Mark and I were humbled and honored to have been asked to give our reflection on this vocation to which him and I have been called.  One of the things about which I am most passionate is protecting the sanctity of marriage in today's society.  Everywhere you look in popular culture, there's something to tear down, belittle or deteriorate this most beautiful institution of marriage created by God and designed to bring us closer to Him.  To reflect the marriage of Christ the bridegroom to His bride, the Church.  To glorify His name.  Mark and I jumped at the opportunity to serve as Christ's voice to these 80 high school kids.

No, we don't know the half of what it's like to be married.  We haven't been through those life situations defined as those that "will make or break you or your marriage."  We do know, however, what it's like to earnestly discern your vocation and how to continue to view that way of life as just that -- a journey by which you grow closer to God and one that gets you into Heaven, God-willing.

In the first five months of our dating, Mark co-led a retreat for our young adult ministry with a friend of ours.  One of the talks given that weekend was by a young married couple, who shared with us the wisdom they had learned from their own vocation discernment, moving from single persons to a dating couple to husband and wife and then to parents.  One particular thing they said especially left an imprint on both mine and Mark's hearts -- it was that they felt it their duty to share their witness story as a married couple when invited to.  Invitations to share their vocation discernment story gave them the opportunity to spread the Good News about marriage (a vocation to which the majority of us are called, I think it's safe to say) and hopefully inspire others to earnestly discern their own callings.  The way in which they worded this was beautiful, and I'm sorry that I can't recall their exact verbage, but it was powerful enough to move me and my husband to joyfully accept any invitations to share our own story when given the opportunity.  One little way of ours to help build the Kingdom.

Hopefully we touched at least one heart in our talk on Sunday, whether it be a future priest / nun / person called to religious life, husband or wife, or person called to the single life.  I hope that it is a talk Mark and I will give several times over the next 60+ years that will only grow more beautiful with time.  God has much to do with us yet!
St. Patrick's Day, March 2006
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