Tuesday, October 23, 2012

With This Ring

Driving down the country road, I look down at my hand gripping the wheel, and it's still there.  The ring.  The diamond glints in the early morning sun.  Did I think it wouldn't be there?  Nearly seven months later, I'm still surprised to see it at times, still amazed by what encircles my finger.  I waited so long for it to be there.  As much as I can't wait to be married---and as much as I'm certain I'll be married for years and years, into the long, tired days of old age---I still hope that the sight of that ring will never be commonplace.  That I will always look at it in awe.

It isn't the diamond or the white gold.  Nor the etchwork.  Not even the 1920's style I love so much.  All I care about is the meaning it holds.  The promise it keeps.

My eyes dart back to the road, to the vast stretch of green fields beside it, themselves full of promise.  The swamp rises ahead; the cypress trees loom large.  A flock of dark winged birds press themselves between me and the sun.

What great vistas does the future hold for my love and I?  What twists and turns, what bends in the road?  I know that great promise can also be tested by great challenges.  Before the ring---before this man and his love---I might have begun to gasp right there in the middle of nowhere, just me, the fields, and the swamp, birds and gators and highway signs.  But now it is different.

God walks beside us.  In countless ways, He shows us that every day.  No matter what we face, God will be there.  His love, the love we share that came from Him.  I believe in both those things.  They are greater than I am.

I curl my fingers around the steering wheel and feel that ring, without beginning or end, press into my flesh.

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.
Revelations 22:13

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Day 17: A Message from God

Sometimes I don't want to listen.  Sometimes I have a hard head.  Stubborn has gotten me through a great deal, and so I embrace it when I really should let it go.  I press forward when I should hang back. I am a flurry of motion when I should be still.  A small part of this is just the way I am, but an even larger part of it has to do with the ways of the world.  This world, all about HURRY HURRY HURRY and BEING GOOD=BEING BUSY!  ARE YOU WORKING HARD ENOUGH?  ARE YOU ACCOMPLISHING EVERYTHING?  ARE YOU GIVING ENOUGH AT WORK?  These messages infiltrate my mind and capture my spirit.  And then instead of breathing free, I am jaw clenched, bent over the steering wheel, pushing through the day, tossing in the night.  I listen to what others tell me to do, what others expect from me.  I fulfill those requirements, those expectations.  Meanwhile God is there, calling to me, trying to show me the way---not forcefully or sarcastically like my co-workers or boss or bank account.  His way is peaceful, loving, gentle.  When that doesn't work---when those other voices are louder than His---He finds another way of reaching me.  A way that is far bigger.

This has to do with why there isn't a Day 15 or Day 16 in this series.  Trust me, there is a good reason.

Yesterday I was diagnosed with an abscess on my throat.  An ear infection.  And mononucleosis.

That's right.  25 days before my wedding.  In the midst of my paid by the hour, no sick leave, no health insurance job.  With the hour long commute there and then hour long commute back that I fight each day.  I DON'T HAVE TIME FOR THIS!!!  I AM TOO BUSY!!!  I NEED TO WORK!!!

And that's exactly why it happened.

I needed to be still.  I needed to rest.  My mind and body were overcome with chaos and pain.  Something had to be done about it.

I must admit I find it ironic that I was diagnosed with mono, a prefix that means "one" or "single" in Latin, as I've committed to writing a 31 day series about the journey from being single to saying "I do."  Going from one life to two.  From single to married.

Mark 10:8
And the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh.

Here I am, in the last few days before marriage, suffering from an illness that essentially necessitates the cessation of certain kinds of affection.  "The Kissing Disease."  Well, at least there's the honeymoon.  

From my facebook post today:

I guess sometimes we become ill so that we can be reminded to thank God for the little things we take for granted. Like the ability to swallow and to eat solid food. And the energy to take a shower. Small but crucial things like that. 

I am also reminded of how immeasurably blessed I am to have my darling in my life.  Always by my side, always asking if I need anything.  "In sickness and in health, right?" he said with a smile.  Kissing me goodbye, I start to turn away from him, fearful of his becoming ill as well, but he turns me back toward him and says, "What's yours is mine."

From monologue to dialogue.  From monochromatic to a rainbow.  From a monogram to a diagram. . .wait, that doesn't work.  I could go all day long with this.  I'm a word nerd.

Monogamy.  Best one yet.

Matthew 19: 3-6
“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Today I slept, read, and prayed.  I let myself be still.  I retreated from the busy and hurry and rush of the world, the harsh voices and critics.  I found peace in Him and gave Him the time to heal the broken parts in my spirit and my body so I can be ready to make a covenant before Him, begin our family together with His blessing, in just a few more weeks.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Day 14: When You Need Encouragement. . .

Sometimes it helps to hear other peoples' stories.  It makes you feel less alone, and it gives insight into not just their experiences but YOURS as well.  Reading about another person's struggle can help you approach yours differently.  And if all they do is provide you with some comfort and hope, well, that's a WHOLE lot of something!

Here are a few posts that helped me when I was single.  I think that what they say about God's perfect timing is SO TRUE!

From Kelly Stamps:




From her friend Laurie:




From Candice Watters:


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Day 13: Process vs. Outcome

Marriage.  For so many of us, it's our ultimate goal.  Some people do date for fun.  But, at least in my experience, there comes a time when most people approach dating with the desire to get married.  With an end goal in sight.

It's good to have goals.  And it's good to know what you want from life.  Recognizing that you would like to be married is an important step.  It helps you have direction and focus.  But when the outcome (marriage) becomes more important than the process (getting to know your potential spouse), there's a problem.  In fact, sometimes people, believing they have found the one, become so caught up in the outcome that they put on blinders to the here and now and ultimately overlook signs that would point to this person NOT being the best life partner for them.

Can you imagine how utterly terrifying it is to sit down to dinner with someone who is clearly DESPERATE to get married?  Who is so caught up in accomplishing a far off goal that they can hardly get through dinner?

When you get engaged, you become caught up in the process of planning a wedding and dreaming of the future.  This is great fun and a natural part of the experience.  Yet sometimes I had to remind myself to enjoy where I am RIGHT NOW.  To enjoy being with the man beside me RIGHT NOW, not just in the dreamy idea of our future together.  Being engaged, the start of a new life together and the deepening of God given love, is such a precious time and should not be rushed, skipped, or ignored.  It's time to delve even deeper into your partner's thoughts and emotions, tell each other more stories, share more laughter and sweet kisses.  The process is where our ultimate joy lies.  The rest is just abstract and out of our control.

For some great insight into finding happiness in life by concentrating on the process, not the outcome, take a look at this TED talk:

Friday, October 12, 2012

Day 12: Grasping and Letting Go

In the middle of my struggle to understand God's chosen path for me, I attended a talk on singleness led by a nun.  It focused on discernment, understanding if you were called to a religious vocation, marriage, or life as a single person.  At the very start of her discussion, the nun joked about being a celibate woman giving dating advice.  She went on to point out that she was in fact in a very committed relationship (with God) and that she, too, had struggled with the path He had called her to take.  Society leads us all to believe that we are SUPPOSED to get married.  It leaves very little room for alternatives. She wanted us to really begin to think about where we were on our life's journey and what God was calling us to do.  

One of the things she emphasized most is our proclivity as human beings to try to force things.  Believing that WE know what is best for us, we try to create what we believe to be the ideal situation, exert extreme effort to WILL the situation we want into being.  We try to force things.

Grasping tight to what we want---whether it is what is best for us, best for this world or not---will always result in unnecessary struggle and pain.  We may not be saying it in our words, but our actions indicate that we are trying to assert our will over God's.  We believe that we---not HE---knows what is best for us.  And through our own weak, narrowminded power we will make it happen.  When we fail, we question Him, we demand to know why, we feel empty and abandoned and overwhelmed by frustration.

Our grasping natures will get us in trouble every time.

What feels better, really?  Muscles clenched tight, tense with fear, fingernails digging in, fingers tinged in pale clinging?  Or the release, muscles relaxed, at ease, open and free?  People will run if you hold them too tight.  And they will place their hand in yours when you hold it open.

It's all about letting go of our will and holding on to God's.  Spending less time in our own heads and more time in prayer with Him.  Only in letting go will we ever be able to hold on to anything.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Day 11: The Danger of Complacency

From a journal entry I wrote on a retreat during the summer of 2010:

Throughout this retreat, Father has emphasized that God surprises us.  He doesn't comply with our human plans, and He doesn't stay inside the box.  I think of the ways He has done this in my life.  He saw gifts in me to which I was blind.  I thought my tired old faith was stagnant and in danger, but He found me and renewed me, giving me an entirely new faith, wholly different from the old one, stronger and deeper.  I never thought I would go on a silent religious retreat, and when I agreed to it, I shocked myself and was very nervous.  It was as if He were agreeing to it for me!  I found myself on that retreat, and I found Him.  The awakening within me was like learning to breathe again.

I think that, besides the obvious practical ones, there are good reasons why I am not yet married.  I always thought I'd be married by now.  But surprise---I'm not.  God has his special plans for me.  I trust Him, and I know that for sure.  I think that if I had gotten married, I would never have had a spiritual journey of this magnitude and in this way.  I know myself, and I probably would have been content and lacking in motivation, not realizing what I was missing, and getting too much of my self worth and happiness from my husband and children.

Instead, I had to rely on myself, and that left me looking to God.  When you have faced hardship and anxiety all alone, you turn to God, and if you're lucky, you know Him in a whole new way.  In exploring and deepening my relationship with God, I have learned so much about Him and about myself.  I wasn't whole before.  There are definitely days when I'm still not, but I'm closer than before.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Day 10: Today

Today is one month until "I do."

Today we took engagement photos.  We stared into each others eyes, and suddenly the voice of the photographer was distant but everything else---the wedding, our life together, our future---was right upon us.

Today we stood on a track in the middle of St. Charles Avenue, and he dipped me as the street car approached.  The photographer snapped the picture, and we laughed and didn't care who saw.

Today I am still battling congestion, no where near 100%, but trying my best to give my all at work nonetheless.

Today I opened the mailbox and found more smart square envelopes flying from the box, RSVPs stacking up.

Today I listened to and said the rosary on the way to work, the Glorious Mysteries, and saw in my mind's eye Christ ascending and the Holy Spirit descending.

Today I watched the sun set with the man I love, held his hands in mine, and saw my face reflected in his eyes.

Today I sipped margaritas, dipped chips in pico de gallo, and talked and talked and talked as if we had just met, as if we wouldn't have the rest of our lives to get it all in.  But we will.  So much to say.  And only a lifetime to fit it all in.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Day 9: Finding the Joy in Being Single

Lamenting your status as a single woman, counting the days to your next birthday, and peering over pictures of friends and former classmates' weddings and babies is no way to live.  Setting aside life plans ("I'll do this when I meet the right guy" or "Maybe when I'm married") or discounting the accomplishments and beauty of TODAY will put you on the path to darkness, not to matrimony or motherhood or joy.  The beauty is in the NOW.  Really, it's all we have.  The past exists in our memories, and the future is just a projection of our thoughts and dreams.  Embracing the great "I AM" that is God, living in the moment, and saying "I do" to who you are today---that is the secret to joy, whether you are single or married.

You will get nowhere putting your life on hold, just waiting.  God wants you along on this journey with Him.

Are you living your real, best life?  Or are you living in the dream of a future that will never be a reality until you embrace who you are in this present moment?

Saying "I do" to yourself first---making a vow to cherish yourself and this life that God gave you---all of that has to happen before you are ever ready to say "I do" to anyone else.

Finding "the one" is not a bandaid, it does not fill the dark holes inside of you, and it does not provide easy answers to all the problems of life.  You and God have to work on healing those wounds, finding strength in the darkness and wholeness in him before you are ever ready to have a life with anyone else.  Share your life with God first.  It's what has to happen before you can share it with anyone else.

Are you so preoccupied with the future that you miss out on the things right in front of you---the flowers in the garden, the smile of a child walking past, the delicious taste of warm stew on a cool night, the comfort of curling up with a good book?  Open your eyes and see the little things, cherish them.  Enjoy this season in your life.  God has you here in this place, at this time, alone with Him for a reason.  Learn to paint.  Walk in the park.  Read the collected works of Dickens.  Take photography lessons.  Make meals YOU want to eat.  Decorate your home with things you love.  Spend time with people who love you.  Foster relationships with girlfriends.  Become each others' support systems.  Listen to the stories your grandparents tell and really be with them in this time of life.

There are so many things that being single has to offer, so many ways you can embrace it and find joy in it.

I know those dinners of one are lonely.  I know watching your best friend and her husband get into the car, leaving you behind and alone hurts.  But there are so many things that can actually help you grown into being a better person while single.  Embrace those things.

And whoever you are meant to be with---you'll be ready for him when he comes.  He will be amazed at the life you have made for yourself.  And until he materializes---enjoy the amazing life and abundant blessings that God has given to you!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Day 8: The Wedding vs. The Marriage

I'll admit it.  My mother is right.  I'm a mess.  However, unlike my usual disorderly scrapes and conundrums, which are entirely of my own making, this time she's contributed to the mess.  I don't just mean that physically my home is a mess, though that might be true.  I also mean that my physical and emotional state right now is in a bit of an uproar.  Neck ache, back ache, pink eye in both eyes, fever, sinus infection, and a nice twitch to make my already somewhat skewed eyebrow more pronounced.  Tossing and turning in the night, lethargic in the day, little to no appetite.

So what's going on?  Am I depressed?  Absolutely not!  I'm the happiest I've ever been in my entire life.  I'm just. . .a mess.

The wedding is 33 days away.  Almost ONE MONTH.

We did not choose to have a one size fits all wedding in a box.  You know what I mean?  The type where you do it all in one venue.  And they provide everything---the cake, the food, the music, the flowers, sometimes even the minister.  That's not our style.

Instead, as Catholics, we are having a big, beautiful nuptial mass in the church.  We've gone through six months of counseling, training, coursework, and preparation.  We've selected readings, music, readers, ushers, etc.

And then, we are having our reception at a beautiful Creole plantation out in the country, owned by my friends, and very near and dear to my heart.  Only all of this means we're getting married at a little church out in the country, an hour drive for most people (hour and a half for many others).  On roads they've never traveled.  In the dark.


My mother has a million questions.  My family, too.  And I am organizing all of it, piece by piece.  Perhaps I shall lose my hair before this is over with, and I will not have to worry about fitting in an appointment with the hair dresser on my special day.

Note:  The above notion is just a myth!

The other morning I caught myself praying about the wedding.  Asking God to please make the wedding a success.  I stopped myself immediately.  All the worry and stress and angst had caused me to lose sight of something.  I shouldn't be praying that the wedding is a success.  I should be praying for our marriage.

From the very start of our marriage preparations, we discussed something that was always very clear to me: your wedding is one day, your marriage is a lifetime.  You should invest more---physically, emotionally, financially, spiritually---in your marriage than your wedding.

I have encountered women who valued their wedding day above all things.  I have actually known women who have gotten married because they wanted to be a bride and later really weren't all that keen on the wife part.  I am not one of those women.  If I had been, I wouldn't have waited until I was thirty and found THE ONE.

Immediately I began to pray for our marriage, for our faith in Him and the love He has given us.

Let's be honest---at the end of the night on November 10th, we will be married.  All the other stuff will just be details.  In the end, it won't matter if the d.j. confuses the songs, the priest mispronounces my name, the cake is inedible, or there aren't enough chairs.  We will be united as one, the night will be over, and our lives will have begun.

God and I get this.  It's just my mother I'm worried about. . .

Clinging to the verse:

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Day 7: Praying Together

Prayer for Engaged Couples 

Father, in my heart love has come 
alive for a person you made, and 
who you too know and love.  I 
want to thank you for this gift.  It 
fills me with profound joy.  It 
makes me like you, who are love 
itself, and brings me to understand 
the value of the life you have given 
me.  Help me not to squander the 
riches you have stored in my heart.  
Teach me that love is a gift that 
must not be suffocated by 
selfishness; that love is pure and 
strong and must not be soiled or 
corrupted; that love is fruitful and 
should, beginning even now, open 
up a new life for myself and the 
person who has chosen me.   

Loving Father, I pray for this 
person who is here beside me, and 
who has placed in me complete 
trust for the future.  I pray for this 
person who will walk along the 
path of life with me; help us to be 
worthy of one another and to be an 
encouragement and example to one 
another.  Help us to prepare for 
marriage, for its grandeur and for 
its responsibilities, so that the love 
which fills us body and spirit may 
rule our lives forevermore.  Amen 




Saturday, October 6, 2012

Love is Action

He tells me how much he loves me all the time.  But on days like these, I feel it more than ever.  Fever, sinus infection, pink eye in both my eyes, and he gets up early on a Saturday morning and brings me to urgent care.  He sits in the waiting room and puts up with the rants of strange men and terrible shows on TV and a long wait.  Then he brings me home and gets my prescription filled.  He makes trips to the store upon a whim of poor, sick me.  And he constantly asks what he can do.  As gross and unattractive and sick as I am, he loves me with his whole heart.  And even in my pain, I feel so blessed.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Day 5: Lone But Not Alone

Huddled under the covers, shaking with fear, pleading with God to fill the hole inside me and somehow lighten this dark burden.  For so long, that was how I existed.  Trapped inside my body, trapped in a world I didn't understand.  Now I still don't understand it, but I know I'm not supposed to.  I've surrendered the need to understand to someone far bigger than I am.  He'll take care of it for me.

My loneliness crippled me.  Wounds from the past immobilized me.  I wanted so badly to go out into the world, and yet found I was incapable of taking even one step beyond what my work day required of me, beyond what was necessary to pay the bills and feed the dog and keep a stocked refrigerator.  So much about the world was terrifying.  So much about the emptiness inside me terrified.

Then one day I took a trip to a place far in the country, one blinking streetlight, mellow cows, and tree lined paths.  It was a departure from my comfortable routine.  It was stepping out of the safe boundaries I had laid for myself.  Attend a three day silent retreat over a hundred miles from my home with perfect strangers?  It sounded crazy.  But I decided on almost a whim to give it a chance.  That decision changed my life.

For three days, I listened to God, got still and silent enough that I could really hear his voice.  Nothing interfering, no distractions, no demands.  I listened to the priest talk about Jesus, his birth, his life, his death, and how he is part of our lives every day.  I wrote a journal of my thoughts for the first time in years.  And I prayed.  Prayed and prayed and prayed as I walked through fields, rocked back and forth on the porch as dusk fell, stood beside live oaks stretching their own arms in praise, and peered down at the first blossoms of spring.

I came home changed.  I was still single.  I was one lone girl, but I wasn't alone.  I had known all along that I had family and friends who loved me, but when you spend night after night eating dinner alone, going to bed in an empty apartment, and struggling through each day without encountering one person who truly loves you---sure, there are well-intentioned, kind people at work, but none who love you profoundly for your true self---you wind up feeling so wretchedly alone that it's almost indescribable.  I grew up with catechism and Mass and a love for God.  But I don't think I really sensed his presence with me until I went on retreat.  After that, I knew God was with me even when I felt the most alone.

I started waking up happy.  For no reason at all, I was full of joy.  I realized that had never happened before.  I had always had to have a reason for happiness.  Now I felt a deep and abiding wholeness.  God was with me every day.  Jesus was walking beside me.

I kept praying that God would send me the man with whom I was meant to spend my life, that He would bless me with a loving husband and children.  But I also began to feel a peace about who I was. Just me and God, no frills attached.  My singleness stopped being a burden, was no longer a condition to list on a medical chart like asthma or high blood pressure.  It wasn't a curse.  God knew what He was doing with me.  And I would release myself to Him, let His love take shape in my heart and trust that He knew what He was doing.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Day 4: Hail Mary

During my struggle with my singleness, I spent a great deal of time reading books and articles on dating.  I bought books that promised to help you find "the one," books that advised you on the rules of first dates, books that promised to unveil the inner workings of the male psyche.  Then one day I woke up and realized the one person to whom I should turn for advice.  The person who should have been the most obvious confidante and consoler from the beginning.  Mary, the greatest wife and mother.

I began talking to Mary about my hopes and dreams and fears.  I know she heard me because my attitude toward my solitary state began to change.  Remembering that she was my mother, I felt much less alone.  Recalling the daunting nature of the task the angel put before her, I knew she could understand my fears.  Focusing on her relationship with Joseph and the anticipation she must have had before Jesus' birth, I knew she recognized the hope I carried in my heart.

In my journey to become a wife and mother, what better person to intercede on my behalf than Mary, wife of Joseph and mother of Jesus?

While on a three day silent retreat, I talked to Mary at great length every day.  I prayed the rosary, said the Angelus, and sometimes just conversed with her the way I would a dear friend.  Every morning, I would walk the path to see her, bring her a camellia, and visit with her.  And each evening, as twilight fell and the stars just started to peek through the velvet veil of sky, I would sit before her, find comfort in her presence, and return to my bed with the peace that came from her love and understanding.

Nothing and no one in all the time that I was single brought me more love, comfort, and peace than Mary.  And I am certain that as I make my way through life as a wife and, if so blessed, as a mother, Mary will always be beside me, will always know my heart.

The Angelus

The Angel of the Lord declared to Mary:
And she conceived of the Holy Spirit. 
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of
our death. Amen. 
Behold the handmaid of the Lord: Be it done unto me according to Thy word. 
Hail Mary . . . 
And the Word was made Flesh: And dwelt among us. 
Hail Mary . . . 

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray: 
Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts; that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Day 3: All Because Two People Fell in Love

I stood at the altar in a lavender dress, clutching a bouquet and watching my best friends.  I had been there to witness them meet, fall in love, and now marry.  I joked that if I hadn't been a bridesmaid I wouldn't have known which side to sit on, as I considered both the bride and groom two of the dearest friends in the world.

I had stood in weddings before, and I had observed more ceremonies than could be counted.  But I had never seen one like this.  Not where the love of the bride and groom was so palpable, where their eyes spoke forever and it seemed to be just the two of them up there at the front of the church.  In a room full of people---a church so packed that the upstairs gallery was full---their presence was all that mattered, they alone filled the space.  I knew their love to be true, the truest I had ever known, and I stood awestruck, tears in my eyes, incapable of looking away.

I knew I didn't have what they had.  Not by a long shot.

I spent the night dancing away with my boyfriend, a man I tolerated but didn't seem to like all that much.  I heard the jokes and the laughter, the "you're next," and "soon we'll be dancing at your wedding."  And it struck me hard then---this was true.  If I kept on this path, it would happen.  I would stand up there in front of everyone and cheapen what I had just witnessed by vows that could only be half truths.

It was as if he had just appeared in my life, and I hadn't wanted to experience the inconvenience of getting him out of it.  After a history of falling for bad guys, I promised myself I would keep a good guy around, no matter what.  No matter if I really loved him.  No matter if I cringed when he kissed me.  I was tired of being the girl who attended weddings alone.  I was weary of the grandparents' laments of my singleness.  When I began dating him, suddenly everyone was happy for me, seemed more comfortable with who I was---my status in life---and my value in others' eyes appeared heightened.  Not because I was any different.  Just because I was in a relationship.

I woke up the next morning, feet sore from the high heeled dancing, groggy from the mimosas I'd imbibed, but certain of what I had to do.  Two days later I broke up with him.  Though I felt bad hurting him, the moment it was done, I felt a flood of relief enveloping me.  I was happier than I had been in months.

Watching my best friends wedding ceremony, I took my own vows along with them.  I promised myself that it would have to be love.  Real love.  If it wasn't love, I wouldn't be with a man.  And if that meant I never found a man, that was the way it was going to have to be.  I ached to think that would also mean no children, trembled at the thought of a life all alone, winced at the pity of others---but I stuck to it.  God didn't want me living a lie.  He had better plans for me than that.

Years passed.  My mother would listen as I critiqued my latest date.  And if he was a good man, or even halfway okay, she would inevitably remind me that there might not be many more chances.  Why don't you like him?  He's a perfectly good man.  What is the matter with you?  A few times I tried to make myself feel something I couldn't.  But forcing myself never worked.  I always returned to the promise I had made myself, that I had made to God as well.

I watched as other girls married because it was the required next step in their relationship.  Because they were afraid to be alone.  Because they wanted children.  Because often a life with someone is easier than one alone.  (I said easier, not better.)  But I held fast to my decision.

And then, one month from my thirtieth birthday, he arrived.  He was better than anything I could have imagined or hoped for.  I had never hoped for so much.  Suddenly the waiting all made sense.  What some might have seen as my gamble, others the power of my convictions, paid off.  There was somebody for me out there.  I found him.  And I loved him.

Funny thing is, he was present for that wedding, too.  He was also a member of the wedding party.  He witnessed that undeniable love just as I did.  I like to think being present in that moment---together even though we were unaware of it---we took our first steps toward the great love we now share.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Day 2 :The Milk Crate

The first time we met we had already met.  We were at the same parties in college and never spoke.  We stood together in our best friends' weddings and took no notice of each other.  We attended grown-up birthday parties with married couples and babies and said nothing more than hello.  And then one night, seemingly like any other, our eyes were opened for the first time.  And it was as if the universe unleashed an immediate and mighty force.  Gravity was suspended and we were no longer drawn back down to the earth but to each other.

That evening I sensed something was coming.  I didn't know what, and I didn't trust my instincts because I'd been wrong about these things in the past.  I just had a strange premonition.  It was like when Tony sings "Something's Coming" in West Side Story.  Only without the subsequent knife fights.  I even stopped at Walgreens and purchased some kind of hair straightener-blow dryer combo.  My ineptitude at styling my hair knows no bounds, and cognizant of my shortcomings in cosmetology, I almost never exert the effort to turn these curls and waves into something orderly.  But for sme reason that evening I wanted to try.  I knew he was coming, but that wasn't unusual.  We shared best friends---a dear married couple we had been close to since college.  But oddly enough, I sensed something would be different with him this evening.

Recalling the years in which I had not only avoided men but almost run screaming from them, I realized I was leaving myself open to whatever might come.  I allowed for the possibility of a door opening up if God was so willing.  I had no reason to believe there was potential for any of this.  I had seen him numerous times over the years and neither of us had been interested in each other or even given each other a second glance.

The night of the National Championship game the city of New Orleans sparked like an electrical charge.  Even people wholly unconnected to the game were tightly wound, on edge, expectant.  We of course had quite a significant vested interest in the game.  We are LSU alums, continue to be rabid Tiger fans, and shared some of our best memories together in the midst of a sea of purple and gold bodies in Tiger Stadium.  We watched the game at one of the biggest and most well known sports bars in the area and IT.WAS.PACKED.  Arriving over an hour before kickoff, there were no chairs available.  My best friend, sister, and I made a trip back to my car where we collected a milk crate and ice chest I just happened to have in the trunk.  These would be our oh-so-glamorous seats for the evening.

We like to say it all began with a milk crate.

From the moment we sat down and I saw his face---that deep grin, his whole body radiating enthusiasm---I wanted to say something to him.  In the old days, I would never have said anything to him unless he spoke to me first.  And if I had been daring enough to speak to him, I would have waited so long that my nervousness would have soaked through my skin, my hands cold, and my voice stammering.  And whatever I might have said would have been lost in my own anxiety.

But not this time.  It was so casual I don't even remember what it was.  Yet it was enough.

My sister spotted the connection immediately.  She told me she thought this was someone I could be interested in.  I told her I'm sure if that was the case, our friends would have mentioned it to us by now.

But something strange happened that evening.  As our beloved Tigers grew worse and worse, somehow he grew closer and closer.  Eventually, inexplicably, he arrived on the milk crate.  And though we are two of the craziest LSU fans you'll ever find, suddenly the game mattered far less than the person sitting beside us.  A loss that would ordinarily have devastated us was taken in stride, indeed, hardly blinked at.  For the first time in years and the only time with this kind of pressing need, I wanted so badly for him to put his arms around me and kiss me.

The game ended.  With his car only feet away from the bar's entrance and in the opposite direction of ours, he insisted upon carrying the empty milk crate, a container I could have carried with ease, back to the car for me.  He would later tell me he just wanted a few more moments with me.

We both knew that night.  Instinctively.  It was as clear to us as the starts out that January night.

Later he would suggest that we should get together some time when there was less football related tragedy.  And then, unprompted and without a touch of fear, I gave him my phone number.  I NEVER give guys my number.  In fact, I'd spent a good part of the last 10 years trying to prevent men from obtaining valid means of contacting me.  But this was different, and I knew it.

He waited five days to call.  I had almost written him off.  He was scared of what I would say.  I never knew a guy to feel that way about me, and I had certainly never met a man so forthright that he would confess that to me.  I could be honest with him.  He was honest with me.  We could admit to each other that sometimes were were both ecstatic and afraid simultaneously.  It was the beginning of being able to share it all with him.

This account is basically of little value to anyone but me.  The details I cherish will be mundane to most people.  But there are certain elements of all this that go back to the "I do" mentality.  From the beginning, I sensed possibility.  That doesn't mean there are boundless opportunities around every corner.  But it doesn't mean there are NONE, either.  Be aware that this world holds good things, and they can happen to you at any moment.

I opened myself up, never an easy task, but one that is necessary if an emotional connection is to be made.  Saying "I do" to vulnerability doesn't have to mean leaving yourself defenseless, but it does mean you are willing to feel some insecurity and discomfort, stepping out of your comfort zone can be crucial to "I do."  Speaking first can mean the difference between an open door or a closed one.

Finding joy in the midst of loss---a humiliating loss at that---and coming together in a shared experience.  Taking a chance and ultimately overcoming fear.  Saying "I do" to letting a person into your life instead of letting fear control it.

Turns out our dear friends brought us together for a reason.  We had been blissfully unaware of their machinations.  We thought it had all been us.  Really it had the markings of God's hands all over it, inspiring them to bring us together, opening our hearts and minds.  They could never have dreamt at the time that just two and a half months later, he would ask me to be his wife.

For other 31 day series, go to The Nester.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Day 1: The Journey to I Do

On November 10, 2012, I will say "I do" to a man whom I love more than I ever thought possible.  "I do" to sickness and health.  To be true in good times and bad.  To love and honor him all the days of my life.  It's a mighty promise, and even as I contemplate those words with an unshakeable confidence and certainty, I am also in awe of the magnitude, the epic scope of such a  vow.  The course of my whole life.  The greatest thing I could ever offer another human being.

Thousands of people do it every day.  They say "I do" at their weddings and then spend the rest of the marriages with it absent.  I do.  So active, so present, far more adamant than "I will."  They say it once, forgetting that their "I do" began long before they stood together at the altar.  And in losing the memory of the first "I do," the origin of all their love, they neglect to carry it with them.

You don't just say "I do" once.  It doesn't just happen on the day of your wedding.  Whether or not you were aware of it, you were saying "I do" even before you met each other.  And you should wake up saying it to yourself and each other every day for the rest of your lives.

It's hard to exactly pinpoint when my life became more about "I do" than anything else.  "I do" is a simple, straightforward phrase.  It is active not passive.  It is present tense.  For a while, especially in the very deepest times of my struggles, life for me was "I want" on most days, "I can't" on the hardest ones, "I did" when I felt I'd already done enough to earn it, "I was" when both the failures of the past overcame me, and "I am" on those days when all I wanted to do was lie in bed and be enveloped by the grace of sleep.  On the best of days---the most hopeful ones---I mustered an "I will."

It took me quite a long time to arrive at "I do."  But when I got there, suddenly I had a choice.  It had been there all along; I just was blind to it in my perpetual over-complification of things.  "I do" contained power.  It involved activity, motion, determination, and the here and now.  Certainly my friends and family helped me on the path to an "I do" way of life.  But the biggest contributing factor on the way to "I do" was a faith that had intensified until it became the most important element of my life.  My life was my faith.

God had always been part of my life.  But things changed when I realized that God did not need me to perform for him, life wasn't an achievement test, and the things I'd been trying to force and the demands I was making of myself, the people around me, and God needed to be released.  Trust.  Love.  Suddenly those abstract concepts took on real meaning, and the fear that had crippled me for most of my life began to ebb.

For the next 31 days, I will chronicle my journey to I do.  Every day in the month of OCtober, I will write until we arrive in November, the month I will finally be a bride.  I will remember it all.  My struggles and doubts---"where is he?  I guess this is supposed to happen for everyone but me"---the joy of falling in love, and the amazing preparation for not just my wedding but the even better, bigger part of all this---a marriage that will last a life time.

The miracle of "I do" is that it wasn't me doing anything at all.  It was God bringing together two people He had intended to unite all along.  And through His love, we found our own.

Please stop on over at The Nester to see the other wonderful writers and their 31 day journeys.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Cans, Dreams, Plans

I stare at the photo in my last post---a post that occurred so long ago, over half a year---and I am flooded with an awe that cannot be contained.  Amazed.  It's a word I use frequently now.  Yes, over half a year since I posted.  And the contents of that half year could well fill another person's whole year, possibly years.

Just three days after that post, all my cans and dreams and long made plans collided.  I wasn't expecting it.  Isn't that everyone always says?  To be honest, I felt like something was about to change, a prickling on the surface of my skin, a small intake of breath at what I might find.  But after so many years of disappointment piled on top of false hopes, I didn't trust it.  Not a feeling.  Not anymore.  Fortunately, I trusted God.  And that turned out to be enough.

How could I have expected what would ultimately happen?  It was so beyond anything I could envision.  It was bigger than my own thoughts, more vast than my own brain could process.  I was incapable of imagining such a thing.  For so long, I had not allowed myself to believe in a life of endless possibilities.  Such a notion was a thing for children or for people who had never found rough spot along their roads.  Not for a single girl about to turn 30 in post-Katrina New Orleans.  Not for a single girl---clearly really a woman now---whose last real relationship had ended almost four years before, who spent her time raising other peoples' children, who was all work to do-bills to pay, entirely comfortable with a glass of wine, a good book, pajamas and lights out by 10:30 on a Friday night.

Then what did I still believe in if not a life where everything was possible?  God.  That was certain.  What had happened as this girl grew into a woman with all the work, bills, responsibilities, and ups and downs that came with such a transformation?  I slowly, almost imperceptibly, grew closer to God than I  had ever been before.  Did I believe that in God all things were possible?  Absolutely.  Maybe.  With an, "I sure hope so," but a little bit of wincing doubt in the background of it all.  I so wanted to believe it.  And ultimately, that was enough for Him.  He recognized the fear that held me back as part of my humanity, looked beyond it, and awoke in me an awareness of where my walk with Him had taken me.

And where was that exactly?

Just three days after my short post, consisting merely of a photograph about embracing cans, allowing the dreams and plans to follow, my life was forever changed.  I opened myself up to the love of my life.  And in November I'm going to marry him.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

2011 Books---Final List

These are the stand out reads of the year to date.  I read more, but these are the ones I remember.

Alias Grace - Margaret Atwood

Howards End - E. M. Forster

Bleak House - Charles Dickens

David Copperfield - Charles Dickens

Mansfield Park - Jane Austen

Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (re-read) - J. K. Rowling

Wives and Daughters - Elizabeth Gaskell

Jane Austen: A Life - Claire Tomalin

The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs. Beeton - Kathryn Hughes

The Uncommon Reader - Alan Bennett

One Thousand Gifts - Ann Voskamp

The Postmistress - Sarah Blake

Lark Rise to Candleford - Flora Thompson

A Family's Affairs - Ellen Douglas

The Help - Kathryn Stockett

The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett

Frankenstein - Mary Shelley

Inner Compass - Margaret Silf

Down the Garden Path - Beverly Nichols

Nicholas Nickleby - Charles Dickens

Morville Hours - Katherine Swift

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

God Has a Sense of Humor ;)

Today I suffered what might be the first Advent 

wreath injury known to humankind. While putting up 

the Christmas stuff in my classroom, I was carrying 

too much, started to drop it all, launched it back up 

into my arms, and wound up stabbing myself in the 

eye with one of the candles, leaving a piece of wax in 

my eye as well. Yes, I am that clumsy. Then I turned 

to find one of my students drawing a crucified 

snowman, or a snowman on a cross, whichever you'd 

prefer. True story. 

Tomorrow I am wearing my glasses and hoping for 

drawings of flowers and robots.

Edited to Add: Just noticed that this came out appearing to be some lame excuse at poetry, when in fact it was just an error in copying and pasting from another location.  And yet somehow, after the day's many misadventures, it seems oddly fitting.

Monday, January 2, 2012


On New Year's Eve, I drove across the longest bridge in the country to visit my parents.  I did not want a New Year's Eve filled with booze and cigarette smoke and bleary-eyed dejection, crowds of unknown people pulsing with longing and anxiety for things they cannot even name, strange bodies seeking each other at midnight in desperation.  I've lived that New Year's, and it's not for me.  I wanted to welcome in the new year surrounded by the two people most important to me, my puppy in my lap, a cozy fire, hot chocolate, cinnamon rolls, and an old black and white 1940's film.  But first there was the fog to get through.

This time of year we always battle fog.  Not snow or sleet---fog.  Fog that creeps in from both lake and river and blankets the city from all sides.  Like a cat in a bag struggling to get out, to find its way.  There were restrictions on the causeway.  Only 35 miles per hour, and only one lane open.  My mother urged me to wait to leave.  But I wanted to get home, to begin what I had set out to do.

Only the night before, while reading Margaret Silf, I encountered the notion of different spaces being sacred---gardens, temples, sanctuaries, islands, and. . .causeways.  Yes, a causeway.  A bridge that transports you from one place to another.  That spans great distance.  Creates a link, a connection.  A physical manifestation of prayer, which spans the distance between us and God, connecting us to Him.

In the fog, I struggle with things that have plagued me all year.  Patience.  I want to set the pace.  I want to go as fast as I choose.  And yet even if I disregarded the speed limit, such a desire would be impossible to meet.  We were in one long, solitary row of cars; the car in front of you, and the car in front of that, and yes, the driver in front of him---all of them contributed to how fast we would go.  All of them contributed to the decision, had a stake.  How frustrated I become in life when I can't call the shots.  When I have to admit that things are out of my control.  Control.  Yes, another issue.

In the fog, I lack control.  I can't see in front of me more than a few feet.  Just the lights on the tail end of the car in front of me.  I have to slow down.  I have to concentrate.  And I have to admit that I don't know what's ahead.  And that's okay.  But it's never okay for me.  I always want to know---not just what's a minute ahead, but an hour, a week, ten years.  Instead of just being present where I am, I must know exactly what's going to happen, how it will occur, and put forth effort to manipulate it or control it.  I can't do that in a fog.  I just can't.  Really, most days, my whole life is a fog.  Any sense of control or foresight is just pretense, a false means of comfort.

Where is real comfort?  In God, of course.  I know He will see me across that great bridge.  I know He sees even when I cannot.  Release.  Trust.  Be still.  All things that were struggles in 2011.  All things I must embrace in 2012.

Here I am on this journey that some might consider dangerous.  I could have stayed at home.  But God wants us on the journey.  He wants us out in His world, no matter how foggy.  Among so many names for Christ, He is known as the Light of the World.  The sun peeks out from the clouds, slowly at first, then with more vigor.  Its rays begin to burn off the fog.  Jesus the light of the world, a beacon in the fog.

As I approach the shore, only a bit of fog remains, floating beside me almost like a cloud.  And out of that gray haze come two pelicans, their broad wings spread, their beaks lifted high.  For a moment, they coast beside me, as if they are following me, before dropping down into the depths of the lake.

Pelicans.  Our state bird.  In medieval times, they believed that pelicans would wound themselves and feed their young with their own blood in times of starvation.  Like Christ and the Eucharist.  In fact, St. Thomas Aquinas actually described Jesus as "the loving divine pelican."

There He was beside me, even in a fog so deep it was seemingly impenetrable.  Dear God, thank you for being with me even in the midst of my greatest confusion, even when I feel most alone.  Thank you for helping me to recognize Your presence in that moment.   Help me to remember this moment always.  And open my eyes to those countless moments every day when You are with me, and I don't even know it.  You are always with me.  Open my eyes, Lord.  Open my eyes.

NOTE:  All photos are from nola.com.  I would never take pictures while driving, especially in a fog!