Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The freedoms of marriage

Several years back when I was single, I had been single for about two years and had gotten comfortable with my relationship status and the lifestyle that came with it.  I remember even telling a friend of mine that I almost didn't want to be in a committed relationship at that time because I liked doing what I wanted to do it, when I wanted to do it and how I wanted to do it.  There was no one else compromising those desires or questioning me.  The freedom was nice!

Then after being single for a while, I met Mark.  I was instantly attracted to him, physically, emotionally and spiritually.  After two months of getting to know him and forming a friendship with him, the fear of losing the freedom of my singleness to being a relationship went out the door.  We openly talked about what kind of relationship we were looking for, and being with Mark was something I greatly desired.

Now, four years later, we're husband and wife, and I've discovered that being in a relationship has its own freedoms.  It's not like once you commit to being with someone, your freedoms are taken away and you're yoked to someone's say-so for the rest of your life.

The freedoms of marriage include the ability to love someone, freely and unreservedly.  The freedom to truly experience what it means to put someone else above yourself and give every part of yourself to another person.  Yes, you can experience love as a single person, as a family member, but there's always a part of yourself that you're protecting.  As a spouse, there is nothing that should be held back from your husband or wife.  Everything is given to them and you're left very vulnerable, trusting that what you give to them will be loved with no judgment.  It's exhilarating to let go!  To not have to hide something in fear of disapproval and be all that you are is beautiful.  It's life-giving.

It also includes the freedom to give life to someone else.  Having a child together in the most natural and intended way by giving your fertility to your spouse for God to do with it whatever He pleases is like nothing else.

There has never been a point when I've been with Mark, both unmarried and married, when I've never felt free to do what I want.  I know that if I really wanted to do something fruitful, Mark would support me.  I think it's safe to say he feels the same about me.  We try to empower one another and have not lost our individuality as a married couple.  The way we spend time with those outside of our relationship may be different but only as a result of meshing two lives and keeping our marriage a priority in order to have a strong and healthy marriage.  It's something we've both agreed upon and want to do for ourselves.  Something we've happily and consciously chosen for our lives.

Freedom is well and alive in my life, and I find it refreshing to reflect upon and remember!

Cancun, Mexico trip, Thanksgiving weekend 2009

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Thankful for having the same mindset on marriage

Why are some people so down on marriage?  Why do some people get married, saying, upfront, that divorce is an option if the two people get bored with one another or feel like moving on?  It's irritating. 

How did I get so blessed to be married to a man who loves being married and thinks the utmost of the sacrament of marriage?  These are his own words, by the way.  That divorce is never an option.

I am overwhelmed with love and thank God every day for finding it good and pleasing that He should bring us together.  I am so undeserving!

Cozumel, Mexico trip, August 2007

Monday, April 19, 2010

Family meal

As I've blogged before, I'm big on tradition. Maybe it's because I'm comfortable with routine, but there's something about traditions and repetitive action that puts order in my world and maybe even helps me to define part of who I am and from where I come.  From three-hour gift opening on Christmas morning to my sister always being the one to lead our family in holiday meal prayer to visiting Destin every other year, my side of the family has definitely had its fair share of celebrating and honoring tradition. 

Even before I married Mark, I was invited to take part in one of his family's most important traditions -- Sunday family meal.  Maybe a month after we had been dating, I came to find out that every Sunday, his family gathers from wherever they are to share a late lunch together.  It was very special to me to be included in this intimate time with his family from the beginning of mine and Mark's relationship.

Sometimes we go out to eat, sometimes we take turns hosting meals in our homes.  I think it's safe to say that since I've been with Mark, maybe only once or twice has the family not met on Sunday, only because most everyone was out of town.

The tradition comes from my mother's-in-law side of the family, as they all meet every week for family meal, too -- a whoooole bunch of them.  They all live in Idaho, and I've attended this side of the family meal once when we visited for a family wedding.  There were two long, long tables full of family -- maybe 30 to 50 people.  I'm not kidding!

Family meal is a tradition I've been happy to add to my list.  I definitely appreciate the time spent visiting, as sometimes life gets so busy, we might not otherwise find time together if not scheduled in.  Plus, we get to keep a close watch on our niece, Violet, growing up.  Soon Kenna and Baby Crowley No. 3 (Veronica and David are pregnant again!) will be joining her!

Crowley Hill Country Winery Trip, November 2009

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

3 questions to help you be a better spouse

One aspect of having a successful marriage is to be the best spouse you can be.  While this is a lifetime mission, there are simple questions you can periodically ask yourself to take baby steps toward being the person to whom you, yourself, would want to be married.
  1. Has my spouse mentioned several times something that bothers him?
    If it's something that improves your character and not something that makes you uncomfortable, take note of it and make an honest effort at trying to improve or change.  As for me, Mark mentioned something three times in one day last week before it hit me that I needed to seriously consider it.  Sometimes we need to be hit with a brick before we open our eyes.  Better late than never!
  2. Do I have someone who can serve as a marriage mentor or accountability partner for my marriage?
    I've found it to be important to have both couples who have healthy, long-term, loving marriages from whom to learn and seek advice as well as a spiritual director or accountability partner to help me look at myself as a wife in a more objective manner.  I'm so far from being the perfect wife, and it's good for my humility to have someone who can lovingly, but honestly, point out the ways in which I can improve.  I meet with my spiritual director once a month.
  3. Do I regularly pray for just my spouse and his needs and intentions?
    I've mentioned before the importance of couples who pray together, but what about the times when you pray on your own and mention the intentions or needs of just your spouse and not include yourself in there?  You have to remember that your spouse is also your brother / sister in Christ who has spiritual needs outside that of your relationship.  He is your best friend, and you want the best for him in all manners of his life -- not just his marriage.  Mark and I made a commitment about a month ago to pray for each other every day at 6:13 p.m. (our anniversary is June 13, aka 6/13), no matter what's going on.  We've both set the alarm on our cell phones to go off as a reminder.  This time of prayer is not about us as a couple but for each other and those things for which we need intercession outside of our marriage.  To help us grow into the saints we've been called to become.  It draws us together spiritually, no matter where we may physically be. 
 Annual Christmas Party at Night Train's, 2009

Thursday, April 8, 2010

An examination of conscience for selfishness in relationships

Check out this examination of conscience for married couples! A good reflection ... Questions such as:

Do I pray for the other person?
Am I willing to forgive quickly and readily?
Have I spent quality time with the other person?
When have I put myself last?

An examination of conscience for selfishness in relationships

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Marriage is 1 of 3 vocations ... not everyone's

Last night, Mark and I were driving home from date night (went to go see "The Hot Tub Time Machine") and listening to some radio talk show.  The issue being discussed on-air was the way to manhood as described by Ernest Hemingway.  He stated that a boy became a man by completing four tasks:
  1. Plant a tree.
  2. Father a son.
  3. Fight a bull.
  4. Write a book.
 No. 1, 3 and 4 are the ones with which I don't have a problem.  It's No. 2 where my issue lies -- "father a son."

The talk show had three males guests who were discussing what their ideas of the way to manhood were, and all three of them also said that fathering a son would be on the list.  Now, don't get me wrong, fatherhood, parenting a child is very admirable and all married men should deem this as necessary to consider and pray about.  The problem, however, lies in that very issue -- all married men.  Only one of the three vocations is marriage.  The other two are religious life and single life.  I most certainly do not think men called to these other two vocations are to father a child in order to become a man.  According to this radio talk show, then, men called to the religious and single life never fully become "men."  Rubbish!

What about the men called to marriage who aren't able to conceive children?  Are they all supposed to adopt?  What about the notion of "spiritual fatherhood," where a man shows great love and encouragement, almost as a mentor, to someone younger than he?

I just don't agree that a male who never fathers a child, for whatever reason, is any less of a man than someone who has conceived a child.  Especially in cases of men who conceive a child then disappear and the child grows up never knowing their "father" and when men who are never able to conceive a child take a child under their wings and love on them as a spiritual father.  These latter males are much more of a "man" than the former.

This brings me back to society's view of marriage being the default vocation for everyone.  If people truly discerned their vocations, I believe the divorce rate would be much lower and people would be happier and have more peace.  May we all encourage our loved ones to have a true discernment of vocation and consider all three vocations -- especially our younger loved ones!  It's so important to fully educate them on all options so that they may have a clear discernment.

April 2007, downtown Austin

Friday, April 2, 2010

In your own time, your own way

When I was young, I always thought my love story would be similar to that of my parents: go to college, meet your future spouse, fall in love, graduate and get married six months out of college.  Have babies two years later and be done having children by the time you're 30.

My love story looks something more like this: go to college, graduate.  Meet my future spouse three years later, fall in love and get married three years later -- six and a half years out of college.  Potentially begin having children by the time I'm 30 -- God-willing. 

I think many of my friends' love stories are pretty similar.  We all thought we'd have similar stories to those in the generation before us, marrying and having children much earlier in life. 

A few of my friends did, actually, get married right out of college, and they already have a couple children and hope to be finished having children by the time they're 30.  This scared me when all this was happening because here they were going through the experiences I thought I was supposed to be going through and I feared not being able to relate to my best friends anymore.  I was still single, going through difficult breakups when it seemed the rest of my friends were moving forward.  My friends were fabulous and were there for me as best they could be, but their lives were changing, as were they, and rightly so.

Thankfully, I found my community not too long after.  Through the Catholic 20-Somethings Ministry, most all of my friendships with young adults who were in the same stage of life as me were formed.  I had finally found others who were single, young adult career professionals, to whom I could relate!  It made all the difference.

Today, most of my friends are still the ones I met through that ministry, and we're all growing together, mostly at the same pace.  Many of us have begun to meet "the one," are getting married, some even beginning to have children.  It's been so fun to go through these things together, at the same time.

So, what I've learned from my love story is that everyone has their own love story.  It unfolds in the fullness of time, as I like to say and pray, in the perfect way.  Had I not gone through my young adult ministry experience, I wouldn't be the person I am today -- true story.  Had I married right out of college and kept being the person I was, I would be completely different.  I wouldn't have met the most amazing man and be in this wonderful, loving marriage that I am so blessed to be in today.

I pray our future children's love stories, if they're called to the vocation of marriage, are just as beautiful, just as perfect.

Praying for our single loved ones to be revealed God's perfect will for their own love stories in the fullness of time and, in the meantime, may they grow in the virtue of patience.  It was a constant prayer of mine for several years!

Christmas 2009, Our first married Christmas!
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