Friday, September 26, 2008

Spiritual Compatibility

I think that most people would agree that religion is a pretty important aspect of compatibility in marriage and in a relationship that’s heading toward marriage. At least a compatible spirituality is pretty important, even if two people would not call themselves “religious” exactly.

I mentioned already that the boyfriend I had in high school was not Catholic like me, and how this affected our relationship. Although that isn’t the direct reason it ended, it definitely played a part. This is not to say that a Catholic and a Protestant (or even a Catholic and a non-Christian) cannot live a happy married life together. My Dad was not Catholic (incidentally, he was Methodist, too) when he married my Mom. He ended up going through RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) to become Catholic when I was in middle school, 14 years into their marriage. Obviously, my Dad was open to the idea of Catholicism on some level, even if it took him a while to open up to it completely.

For as long as I can remember, I have always considered myself a religious person. In Catholic grade school (K-8) I never really questioned what it was I was learning about God, the Church, and what it meant to be His child and a good person. I consider myself blessed to have never seriously struggled in having a personal relationship with my God through prayer and the Sacraments of the Church. When I entered public high school, I didn’t lose that relationship.

Throughout my high school years, I would talk to God about everything I had on my mind. I would write him letters in a prayer journal; putting my thoughts down on paper would also help me to relieve all of those super-important high school stresses ;-). My Confirmation in tenth grade brought me even closer to God and into a deeper love for Him. I began to read the Bible more and looked forward eagerly to the celebration of the Eucharist every Sunday. Still, I had never encountered any real opposition to my faith. It was not until college that I would be forced to think through and answer serious questions, both for myself and another.

As I’m sure you have figured out, this happened when I met and began dating Daniel early in my first year of college. He had been a Catholic like me, but had fallen into a very different spiritual state than I had ever dealt with myself. He doubted the sincerity and truth of the Church, the Bible, and formal religion in general. He questioned the goodness of our Creator and the trustworthiness of Christian tradition; at times, he would even consider the possibility that there is no God at all. Naturally, this concerned me, as I was forming a very strong attachment to him at this point. I worried about our relationship and prayed constantly that God would show me how to get through to him.

In the meantime, I was being forced to answer difficult questions for both him and myself as I would spend hours debating. I wanted nothing more than to be able to persuade the boy I was falling in love with that there was an even greater Love that he would have to know if our relationship was going to last. I researched, I prayed, I argued, and I waited. Throughout my freshman year, I discovered more than ever the importance of asking questions. Questioning my faith and analyzing it in such depth only brought me to an even deeper understanding and conviction that what I believed was true. I also learned the power and importance of prayer like never before as I watched God slowly soften Daniel’s heart and draw him back to Himself. Today, we pray and go to Mass together all the time, thankful that God was able to use our relationship to bring us both closer to Him.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Wedding Planning Weekend

We'll just continue to postpone that story I was in the middle of a couple weeks ago, shall we? Don't worry, I'll get to it eventually.

This past weekend was full of wedding planning stuff. On Friday Daniel and I had our first meeting with the priest who will be officiating at our wedding. It was really exciting because, even though not a lot was done, it was a first real step towards planning for our marriage. Yeah, we’ve already booked the chapel and the reception site, and we’ve already met with the organist. We know that our wedding colors are going to be blue and yellow, and I have a general idea of what I want my dress to look like. But when we were each asked point blank whether we intended to remain faithful to our future spouse and said, “Yes, I do,” there was something more real about that. Plus, we each signed our name at the bottom of all the questions we answered. It was nice.

We were also given a workbook for planning our wedding liturgy, which will be the Rite of Marriage within the Mass. Our wedding is on a Saturday morning. It’s not a major feast day, so we will be able to choose our readings. Daniel and I are both excited to start planning our ceremony! The main thing we have to focus on right now is making sure we get matched with a sponsor couple for marriage prep through my parish. We are on a waiting list right now—hopefully we will hear something soon.

So that was Friday afternoon. When I got home from work on Friday night, I went wedding dress shopping with my mom, my nineteen-year-old sister Marie who is also my maid of honor, and one of my best friends, Caroline, who is also my roommate. Unfortunately, when we got to David’s Bridal, I was told that I could walk around but I couldn’t even touch the dresses without an appointment. So we walked around and looked—it turns out there was nothing I really liked within my price range anyways. A waste of a drive, but oh well.

Early Saturday morning (much too early for a weekend), Daniel and I drove about an hour away to meet a couple—friends of the family—who do wedding photography. They bought us breakfast, which was delicious, and we looked at their work. It was good, but not quite our style. We’re going to look at other options now, and I’m not quite sure what we’ll do. When I got home that afternoon, my friend Caroline and I walked around downtown looking for shops that might have wedding dresses that would be more my style, then we went to the mall. We found nothing. At this point, dinner time on Saturday, I felt like I had wasted my entire weekend.

So, when I got home I started looking at wedding gown sites online, and I actually came across a few that I liked. One of them I am absolutely in love with: it is all lace, with an off-the-shoulder sweetheart neckline, a beautiful sheer, high button-up back, and a small train. (See above picture.) It is definitely me. I’m pretty nervous about the idea of buying my wedding dress online, though, so I’m not sure what I will end up deciding. I’ll let you know! The planning continues…

Friday, September 12, 2008

Wishing, Hoping, Thinking and Praying

When I was a little girl, probably around eight or nine, my family used to listen to a certain cassette tape in the car whenever we were going somewhere. It was by Wayne Watson, a Christian music artist. I loved all of the songs on the tape, but one sticks out in my memory more than the rest. It was called "Somewhere in the World" and it was about a father praying for his little boy’s future wife:

"Somewhere in the world today
A little girl will go out to play...
And I don't even know her name
But I'm prayin' for her just the same
That the Lord will write His name upon her heart."

I would sit and listen, and I would wonder whether somewhere, some little boy’s parents were praying for me…

Ever since I was really little, I felt sure that I would get married and be a mom when I grew up. And I’m not sure whether this is weird or not, but I remember thinking about my future husband fairly often from a pretty young age. I believed with a child’s faith in God and the fact that He had a plan for my life. I believed that God already had a husband picked out for me, and all I had to do was find him. Every once in a while I would wonder what he was doing, what his life was like. I would wonder what he looked like and what his name was. And when I remembered, I would pray for him during my bedtime prayers.

When I met Daniel, although he had been raised Catholic like me, he had pretty much fallen away from his faith—as had much of his family. I’m sure I will go into more detail about all of this later, but to say the least, he and I had many long and emotional (at least on my side) debates about everything from the authority of the Church to the existence of God to abortion. I prayed for him like I had never prayed for anything in my life.

This may sound silly, but now that I know who my future husband is, I am so glad that I used to pray for him when I was younger. I like to think that even those very general prayers way back then helped. Prayer changes things. Even if you feel funny praying for someone you’ve never met and whose name you don’t even know, try it anyway. I highly suggest it. ;-).

Friday, September 5, 2008

Looking Back and Moving Forward

Sorry to be boring, but I really don’t remember how they reacted. When I said, “I think I have a boyfriend,” they obviously would have asked me who he was, where he was from, etc. And I’m sure my Mom probably said something along the lines of, “What makes you think that?” I’m also pretty sure my parents probably didn’t expect much to come of this person who might be my boyfriend. I didn’t even know whether he was!

I remember thinking to myself that Daniel would be good to date “for now.” He really liked me, he was pretty cute, and he was actually tall enough for me (I’m five foot eight and he’s 6 foot one or two—he always gives me different answers). I figured we would date for however long, and then I could move on. Even on a small campus, there were certainly a few other boys I had my eye on. Besides, it was only two weeks into my first year of college, and at that point I really wasn’t thinking about or planning on forever…

But two weeks turned into my entire freshman year, and that one year became two. All of our differences—and believe me, there were some big ones—seemed to work themselves out. Okay, so we had to work hard to make them work out. And there were quite a few arguments and quite a few tears. But however they managed to work out, they worked out.

We have now been together four years (September 6), and it always amazes me to look back and see how far we have come. Daniel and I have been through so much together, and done so much growing up along the way. In coming as far as we have, I know we’ve surprised some people, both family members and friends. If you could go back in time to September of 2004 and tell eighteen-year-old me that I would end up marrying Daniel, and that I would never date any other guys in college or thereafter, I would be surprised too!

Not that I was the type of girl who was used to dating lots of different boys. Not at all, although in high school I may have wished that I was. When I was in kindergarten, I had a “boyfriend,” but don’t ask me what exactly that meant at age five. From first through eleventh grade, though, I would have many crushes and not a single date. In high school a group of my girl friends and I always went to our school dances together, but I was always wishing that my crush-of-the-month/year would ask me to go with him.

By the time I was in eleventh grade and junior prom came around, a lot of my friends were getting dates. So, not wanting to be left out, I got up the nerve to call an old friend from middle school (a boy I had a crush on back in fifth and sixth grade). He agreed to come with me, even though we hadn’t seen or spoken to each other for a few years. I still can’t believe I was brave enough to do that!

The next year, when I was a senior, I finally had my first real boyfriend. We’ll call him “Pete.” I liked him a lot, but it wasn’t too long before we had a real problem: religion. I had gone to a Catholic school up until high school, and all of my closest friends at my public high school were Catholic. Pete, however was not. He was Methodist, and had a hard time understanding Catholicism. Since my faith was so important to me, this became a major stumbling block for us. We dated for about five months, long enough to get me through senior prom, and then we were done.

After we had already broken up, the message Pete wrote in my school yearbook included this: “You’ll meet a nice Catholic boy in college and fall in love. It’ll be great!” I’m still not quite sure exactly what percentage of this was sarcasm on Pete’s part, but he had hit on what I really wanted. Since I would be starting at a Catholic college in a couple of months, I was excited about the prospect of meeting a whole bunch of cute Catholic boys all in one place—at least this is what I imagined!

But God apparently had something else in mind for me, something that would end up strengthening my faith in a way that I never would have expected, something a little different from the Catholic poster boy I had envisioned. Enter eighteen-year-old Daniel.