The Joy of Community

The past two weekends were ones of great joy. The first weekend, one of my closets friends, Emily, came into town from Arizona with her husband, Ted, to celebrate their one year anniversary (October 4th). I was so grateful for the time Kevin and I got to spend with them: a Friday night gathering of her close friends still here in Boston, Saturday morning mass & brunch, Saturday evening at a friend’s engagement party, and Sunday afternoon when they visited to see our apartment.

 

It’s great to see both of them just so in love and thankful for a great first year. And although I miss her soooooo much, I couldn’t wish anything more for her than to be truly happy. One thing she said to me was that walking around Boston didn’t make her wish she still lived here; she enjoyed the city but wasn’t torn about living elsewhere. What this trip really made her long for, though, was the people. It’s tough coming back and having such effortless and beautiful friendships only to leave again.

It’s a hard thing for anyone; I’ve experienced many close friends leave Boston one by one, and whenever they return I’m able to see their joy of being around their community and the difficult moment of leaving (not to say that they haven’t all cultivated beautiful lives elsewhere – they most certainly have!). Yes, we still consider ourselves one community, even with all the growing members via marriages and babies. And it doesn’t die out, but only grows stronger with time as it matures. Being a part of the universal Church allows us to keep growing together, though it might look different with each passing year.

This past weekend, Sarah and I drove out to Albany, NY to co-host a baby shower for Ashlie with her mother-in-law. Ashlie & Josh lived in North Dakota for three years (Josh is in the air force), and they recently relocated to Penn State where they will be for about a year and a half. It is soooo much closer than ND, but still not the easiest to get to. So the Albany trip to Josh’s parents’ home was a real treat. Seeing her eight months pregnant was truly amazing! In just one short month we will have a new life entering our world, and it could not be more wonderful.

 

We stayed for just one night, so there wasn’t even a moment to feel sad about leaving as it was so quick. But I’m thankful for the short 24 hours we did have as I’m not sure when I’ll get to see them next and meet little Dill! I try to take these moments in; I try to really be present to them. It can be so easy for me to focus on the long stretches of time we’re apart. But God grants us these small events (more often that we ever could have dreamed of back in May 2011!) as a reminder of his goodness, and that as long as we are in communion with God, we are in communion with one another.

Will I be sad the day God calls Kevin and I to leave this city? Possibly all the way to Minnesota, possibly somewhere else? Absolutely. It’s not that I have a desire to live in Massachusetts forever, though. We look forward to building a home for our family in the place that is right for us. But this is my spiritual home where my faith grew. This is where everyone comes back to, in a sense. This is where our community reunites. This is where I still have beautiful, strong friendships. So I tryyyyy not to think much about that next step (though I do a poor job at it). It’s clear this is where we are meant to be at the moment, and I’m happy with that.  As a few of us liked to say back in the day, “Lord, it is good that we are here…and it will be good when we are there.”

Day of Rest

Ever since senior year of college, Sunday’s have been my absolute favorite day of the week. In learning to enter into the [new] Sabbath, the day is greatly enriched. It started out simple, but even four years ago, I think my heart really got it. It was the day of rest, the day to celebrate our Lord’s resurrection, and the day to be in community. And our community at the BU Catholic Center really demonstrated the beauty of the day, whether or not people realized it. The Catechism, which answers most my questions when I go looking, says, “The institution of the Lord’s Day helps everyone enjoy adequate rest and leisure to cultivate their familial, cultural, social, and religious lives.” [CCC 2184]

Sundays

Leaving college, I began a more routine way of life, which is a great thing for me, personally. And Sundays  continued to be similar in heart, though the community aspect was different. I still relished it where I could, and tried to explore how to best live this day. Fast forward to married life, and the Sabbath has just gotten even better.

Being together every weekend has been a blessed adventure, and we’ve both taught one another different ways to truly enter into the Sabbath. For instance, Kevin has really helped me to see the value in not working on the Sabbath. Now, I’m not just talking about not going into the office, or not doing homework. I mean no work. No big projects around the apartment, no shopping, no serious life planning (ie: budgeting, travel plans, etc.). This part is the toughest for me as I always feel I have something to do, but it also really sets the day apart. I now understand what it means to work for six days and to rest on the seventh. My Saturdays have become busier with chores, errands, and miscellaneous work, but it makes our Sundays truly great. And in a way, I feel like I’m able to glorify God more with my six days of work and one day of true rest.

What’s even better, though, is that our Sundays are by no means a lazy. We would both have a hard time enjoying our day if we felt it was a wasted day. It’s filled with Mass, homemade brunch, nice long walks, prayer, a well-prepared dinner & dessert, time for reading or watching something together, and just good quality time with one another. That may vary a bit, but that’s the gist. It’s also nice to have a day to enjoy the clean and tidy apartment after the work has already been put in. And we try to incorporate community (outside of Mass) where we can. The Sabbath should be celebrated with people, it’s a day to nourish our friendships. 

Each Sunday, we find we appreciate  the Sabbath more. We love what it does for our souls, we love what it does for our marriage. We’re still very much learning what it means to enter into the Sabbath: to celebrate the resurrection, the fulfillment of creation, and the day of rest. And I’m sure when our family grows, how we celebrate Sunday will evolve, and we’re so excited!

 

How it began!

As an excuse to tell this story of how Kevin and I met, I’ll be joining the link up at Camp Patton, which she’s revived via facebook 🙂

January 2012 was a very interesting time of life for me. Seven months out of school, having a particularly tough time at work, recovering from some personal life things, but also experiencing great consolation from my recent Marian consecration. It was a Wednesday afternoon, and my boss calls me out of the blue with a promotion opportunity…in Philadelphia. Annnnndd let the 2 months of craziness begin.

January 2012 - living up the single life
January 2012 – living up the single life

My soul experienced so much in this time of interviewing, discussing things with my boss (who would still be my boss if I moved), discerning if it was the right move, etc. What I ultimately wanted was to do God’s will. And whatever the outcome was going to be, I wanted it to be a stepping stone towards my Vocation. So I had a very distinct prayer (since the more the process got drawn out, the more I wanted to go to Philly). I prayed that if God were to keep me in Boston, he would also show me an abundance of potential spouse material…or bring me to a convent. 

It was Friday, March 9th, 2012 when my boss sat me down and told me that, for a number of reasons, I’d be staying in Boston. I’m not really sure what I felt in that moment – there were a lot of emotions. But at least I knew. That Saturday, March 10th, was a funny evening. There was a social event for the Catholic Young Adult Group I was a part of (but had been somewhat absent from for a few months previously, due to all my life stuff) taking place at the apartment I had lived in the summer previously. I decided to go. This is the time of life my former roommates like to call the period of “75 suiters” – a real hoot cause believe me this is not territory I’m familiar with. That night began an interesting episode that I’m sure God had a few laughs at. I’ve never had a prayer answered so literally. Bottom line: I met Kevin that night. He was charming, he made me laugh a lot, I found out he had recently moved from Minnesota and was studying realist art, he was a former seminarian (check), and he was currently in a swing dancing class with my roommate and friend. 

Cleaning St. Francis Chapel during Lent 2012 - ran into Kevin just before and he joined!
Cleaning St. Francis Chapel during Lent 2012 – ran into Kevin just before and he joined!

So naturally, I met my roommate the following Monday at the end of her swing dancing class  “to catch a ride home.” And I convinced her to invite him to any social things we’d be having. And I started attending the young adult group again. And I signed up for swing dancing lessons.  Just before May rolled around, I was trying to see where God was leading me in a number of situations, this being one of them. And from the advice of the dear Mother Olga, I decided to pray the 30 day novena to St. Joseph for the month of May. My intention was just for my Vocation of marriage, if that be God’s will. I tried to have a detached heart from what I was feeling, and let God guide me.

Kevin, Anne Marie (now Sister Anne Marie!) and I at the Eucharistic Congress, April 28th, 2012
Kevin, Anne Marie (now Sister Anne Marie!) and I at the Eucharistic Congress, April 28th, 2012

And a crazy month it was. I could see God’s hand in everything, through the joys, the tears, and the decisions he was asking me to make. And on St. Rita’s feast day, May 22nd, Kevin called me (said he had been to multiple daily masses around the city that day to try and find me in person haha) and asked me out. Very direct and to the point. I hesitated for a brief moment out of utter shock, then said, “yeah!” (my typical response to Kevin’s big questions). So when we hung up, I walked into the kitchen and dramatically collapsed on the floor overwhelmed with so many things. (Meanwhile, there are 5 women and a baby getting ready to eat a steak & corn dinner wondering what just happened.) 

Swing Dancing my way into his heart ;)
Swing Dancing my way into his heart 😉

I was soon reminded that the novena was NOT over, though, as some crazy events occurred over the next eight days that I will not go into. It was an intense time, even looking back on it still, but God made it clear that with all the good things he was presenting to me, had to make the decision and that He would bless it. Saint Joseph had worked some powerful intercession, and on May 31st, at the Mass for the feast of the Visitation (one of my favorites), I stood next to Kevin and already sort of knew I was standing next to my future husband. (And exactly two years following the end of that novena, we’d be up on the altar uniting ourselves in the sacrament of Holy Matrimony.) 

As Kevin would say, “Romans 8:28.”

For those Long Car Rides…

Montreal Road Trip 2013

Over the past year and a half, Kevin and I have taken many trips to PA for wedding related things, holidays, to see my family, etc. From this, we’ve finally settled on the fact that it is just so much more economical to rent a car for the weekend than to buy two flights. Because for SOME reason, the airline industry thinks it should cost more to fly Boston to Philly than Boston to Phoenix (true story – I flew to Phoenix for a wedding for less than your average weekend home to PA). And what’s even more exciting is that renting the car at the week rate (7 days) is only $25 more than the 3 day rate! So we get some car usage for a couple extra days in Boston (helps with grocery shopping and such). 

With all this car time that is so foreign to us on a regular basis, we’ve invested in lots of talks for the road – primarily Lighthouse Catholic Media. Believe me when I say these are a worthy investment (and I mean, they’re only like a $3 donation at most parishes). And it’s been especially fruitful to listen to some marriage and family ones as we were engaged and now newly married! Let me share a few of my favorites: 

1. Raising Amazing Children by Matthew Kelly: gosh, if you’ve never heard this man speak, go do it! We buy a CD of his every time we see one, they are just that good. This was the first talk we listened to while engaged, and got us really pumped for kids. Some of what he says seems to us like a no-brainer, but it just might be a Catholic thing. Other things, while they may seem simple as he says them, struck us so profoundly. 

2. What Every Couple Should Know About Marriage & Prayer by Archbishop Fulton Sheen: what a wise man to listen to. He’s got a calming voice (but not too calming!), and gives great insight into deepening love & commitment in marriage. One of many of his talks on the subject.

3. Changed Forever by Father Mike Schmitz: this guy this guy this guy! He is the Chaplain for the University of Minnesota Duluth, so Kevin knows him well. And you cannot help but be 150% engaged when listening to him. And this one especially brought tears to my eyes. It’s on Baptism, and really hits on the deeper meaning of the sacrament and what it means to actually be a child of God.

4. The 7 Levels of Intimacy by Matthew Kelly: this one might be my favorite; it has incredible advice for building better intimacy, not just with a spouse, but in all relationships. Truly a talk that touched us on many levels.

5. For Better Forever by Dr. Gregory Popcak & Lisa Popcak: very beautiful & practical; they offer great wisdom from JPII and his Theology of the Body, connecting it to the everyday.

We bought a few more recently, so next time we have a long drive I’m sure I’ll have more to add to this list!

A Newlywed & NFP

In honor of NFP Awareness Week (which I didn’t realize was a thing until this week), I’d like to share a bit of my experience with Natural Family Planning. I just got married in May 2014, but I’ve been charting one method or another since April 2012.

For those who may not know, Natural Family Planning is a general term for various methods used to avoid or achieve pregnancy in cooperation with God’s plan sans artificial assistance. This is my informal Catholic definition, but I’ve heard of many non-Catholics using it as just a natural way to avoid or achieve pregnancy without putting all that extra hormonal blarb into your body. It’s beautiful for a number of reasons, the primary one for me being it works in harmony with truth. It is about being fully open to life, no matter your circumstance. It is about choosing life, even in those times you’re trying to avoid.

Kevin and I certainly don’t have to practice NFP – we could just leave it up to God, be intimate whenever we wanted, and see what happens. But given our personal circumstances right now and through prayer, we believe that it’s not the best time for us to have a child. Now if I somehow got pregnant, we’d be excited (gosh, Kevin would be ecstatic), but we’re doing our part to delay it at the moment. So in the spirit of this NFP Awareness Week, let me share a bit of both my personal joys and struggles with natural family planning.

🙂 It’s a team effort. My husband knows and [sort of] understands what’s going on with my body, and we actually develop a deeper level of intimacy through it. While we were engaged, I would text him my chart details at the end of each day, and he was responsible for the physical chart. Now that we’re married, it’s a bit more wonky since we’ve switched around so many times what NFP method we’re charting with, but it’s still a similar setup. He is aware of what is going on in my cycle, and how that affects me each day. A woman’s body is constantly changing throughout the month, so naturally a woman’s day-to-day can be so drastically different for no obvious reason. And it’s beyond helpful to have a husband who is aware and sensitive to what might be going on underneath the surface.

🙂 It requires sacrifice. I don’t know about you, but I for sure want my marriage to be made up of worthy sacrifices. It helps us demonstrate our love for one another, as well as our love for God. It unites us closer to each other and to Him. The sacrifices that NFP calls for help us to grow in prudence and temperance. And it builds up the respect that we have for one another.

🙂 It’s natural and healthy. This is an exciting one. I’ve been learning so much recently about my body, and I’ve been trying to incorporate natural things into all parts of my life (essential oils, attempted homegrown herbs, cooking from scratch, etc.). So of course it’s a joy that I’m able to have a healthy level of intimacy with my husband while not worrying about, or harming myself, with outside chemicals.

🙁 It can be confusing and frustrating when you aren’t the poster child for NFP. Even though I’ve been charting for over 2 full years, I still don’t have a “normal” chart. We’ve switched methods three times since getting engaged, trying to find what works best for us. It can be hard when an NFP teacher looks at your chart and tells you that if you’re trying to avoid pregnancy, there only looks to be 2 “go” days in that entire month. With my chart being somewhat difficult to interpret, it’s tough when we just don’t know if it’s an okay day. And it leads me to sometimes feel guilty; like there’s something wrong with me (physically or psychologically), or I’m doing it wrong, or I’m making a cross for our marriage.

🙂 The frustrations are purifying. In a way, I’m grateful for not having one’s “ideal” chart, or a regular cycle. It means that I just have to trust in God, which is ultimately what I’m trying to do in all parts of my life. Even with a perfect cycle, we all have to trust in the Lord and in His plans for us.

Kevin and I are still just in the newlywed phase – we have years of learning and growing to do. But I can say with confidence that I’m grateful NFP is a part of our marriage, and I hope we can grow in faith each day as we leave our fertility and our family in God’s hands.

Now for some great NFP related links for the week!

Women Speak on NFP

NFP Awareness Week Contest

Dear Newlywed, You’re Probably Worried About the Wrong Thing