Here's Why I'm Not a Hopeless Romantic

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Some (okay, all) of my favorite movies are romantic comedies. I love siting around with the women in my life over a cup of coffee, and having heart-to-heart conversations about their lives and relationships. If you were to 'friend' me on Facebook, your feed would soon be full of all the relationship articles I post. YouTube suggests that I watch wedding videos, engagement stories, and promposals. Pinterest literally only suggests wedding items to me anymore (even though I got married almost a year ago!). 

And don't even get me started on Disney movies. Growing up, I'd spent my summers catching up on all the Disney movies that had come out over the year. I even have a Disney soul sister - Anna from Frozen. I love how she jumps head first into love.

I can't help it . . . I love love. 

There have been many times where I've been labeled a 'hopeless romantic'. Everyone from my mom to my friends in college would point out how I love a good love story. I'll admit it - I have an old fashioned heart that believes in timeless, pure love. I love breakfast in bed, deep conversations, mountain views that take your breath away, and hikes in the snow followed by (what else?) more coffee. In a world of 280 Twitter characters, I prefer 3 page love letters. 

But I'm not a hopeless romantic. 

What is love without hope? Hope is the virtue by which we on earth desire the goodness and beauty of Heaven and eternal life. We are called place all of our trust, every ounce of it, in the fact that God is a good father. That He's going to show up. That He's going to keep his promises. In the book of Hebrews, Scripture reminds us of this, telling us to "hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful". 

Hope is the virtue that keeps our hearts from sinking into discouragement. Hope sustains us in the dark times, and it opens up our hearts in expectation and receptivity to the beauty of eternity and the knowledge that God does have a plan. 

Hope, O my soul, hope. You know neither the day nor the hour. Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience makes doubtful what is certain, and turns a very short time into a long one. Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end.
— Saint Teresa of Avila

I'm not a hopeless romantic because I'm a hope-filled romantic. Authentic love in our relationships with ourselves, those around us, and (most importantly!) God isn't something that's unrealistic or ridiculous. We can never have too much hope in God's love for us and His plan for our lives.

God, whose very essence is love, is the original romantic. He delights in showing His love to us. We can't let our busy, noisy lives lead us to be unaware that we're constantly being pursued by Him. 

We're made by love, for love. Romance is written on our hearts, stamped into our DNA. We're all called to be hope-filled romantics. 

God loves us each day - even in our messiest moments. He loved us from the cross, splayed out on wooden beams and burdened with every sin ever committed. Paul tells us in Romans, "But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." 

I don't know about you, but that's better than any romantic comedy I've ever watched.

7 QT 29: Wedding bells, running outside, and library returns

We're so close to the weekend, we can almost taste it! But before you bundle up and head outside, let's take a few minutes to look back on the week! 

1. Winter weddings (and reception pictures, of course)

I sang at a wedding last weekend for some friends from college. The wedding was beautiful and it was so good to sing again. We were able to sing from the choir loft - which I love. While we were in the loft, we happened upon this gem of a sign, and couldn't resist to kick our reception pictures off a litte early. 

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Here are a few of the other pictures from the reception (these spoons look like they're real silverware but they're actually plastic. It's a magical world we're living in, friends)!

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These doors politely were requested to keep shut. But they were open, so an obvious random photo opportunity.  

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2. Every Sacred Sunday

Last year, Joseph and I heard about the Every Sacred Sunday Mass journal on Kickstarter. Now, the journal has become a way that we prepare our hearts for Mass on the weekend. It was a huge dream of mine to sit down with Kassie Manning and Christie Peters, the creators of the journal. Sunday night my dream came true, and Kassie and I's conversation is in this week's podcast - 'A Letter to the Woman Who Is Bored at Mass". Give it a listen and check out the Mass journal here

3. But this gorgeous running weather, though

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After weeks of negative degree wind chill, Wednesday was a gorgeous 50 degrees. 50 degrees! That's basically summer. I didn't even wear a coat. So I threw on my running shoes to knock out a four mile run. But what I loved even more than the run was the chance to see other people out doing the same thing. And smiling. And waving. And saying hello. Most of them also owned gorgeous, fluffy dogs. My heart was so full. 

I thought to myself, "This is amazing! I should do this every day I'm off work! I should do this at least three times a week!" 

Then we had freezing rain the next day. Welcome to Kansas. 

4. A book to add to your winter reading list

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Wind chills, negative temperatures, and ice on the streets making you want to stay inside? Me too, friends. Me too. Even though the weather has left quite a bit to be desired lately, it's given me a lot of time to knock some books of my reading list.

One of the books I've loved reading is The Marian Option by Dr. Carrie Gress. In the book, she write about how Marian devotion is the answer to a lot of the problems the world is in right now. Find a copy at your local library, Catholic bookstore, or online. And then listen to Dr. Gress talk about her book and how Marian devotion helps her live out the feminine genius in our episode of Letters to Women in February! I'm pumped. 

5. I'm not a library fugitive

Speaking of books and libraries, let's have a heart-to-heart about borrowing books and late fees. I'm not the best at remembering when to return books. I may or may not have had my library card in my hometown revoked because I forgot to return a book (answer: I did). So when we moved to Kansas City last year, I promised myself I would take full advantage of my clean library-borrowing slate and not forget to return what I borrowed. 

IT HAS BEEN A YEAR AND I AM NOT A KC LIBRARY FUGITIVE. I have returned every. single. thing. that I've borrowed and (gasp!) sometimes earlier than the due date. Let's see if I can keep this track record in the 2018 year. I have high hopes! 

6. But where to put you?

This winter, I'm reading the Harry Potter series for the first time in my life. I've had the books on my to-read list for a while, and everything has settled down enough for me to spend some time getting to know Harry Potter. Or at least, know him better than the Harry Potter puppets video. Because you know I watched that twelve times on repeat already. 

I'm currently reading the chapter about the sorting hat, and couldn't help but think of the connection between Hogwarts houses and personality type tests. Then, I listened to this episode about exactly that on NPR's Hidden Brain. So good - if you have some extra time during your commute and want to listen, you can find it here

7. Brunch is always a good idea

I love starting my morning with the Blessed Is She daily devotional. Tomorrow morning I'm headed to a Blessed is She brunch and I'm so excited! I'm bringing coffee, of course. I mean, what else would I bring? 

 

Have a wonderful weekend! 

 

A Lesson on Mistakes from the Three Kings

I've always been slightly obsessed with perfection. In college, I would stay awake until the early morning, perfecting an essay. At home, I love when I can cross every. single. thing. off of my check list. But sometimes my perfectionism gets out of hand. Sometimes I love "perfection" so much that I become afraid of mistakes. 

At church last weekend, I was reminded that the Epiphany was full of mistakes. Three men left their homeland, embarking on a journey that may have cost them their lives. They navigate by the stars, and finally end up in Jerusalem - but that's not where Christ is. Confused, they ask for directions from an impostor-king who wants to kill the baby they're searching for - literally the last possible person they should have asked for directions from. 

Can you imagine them, in King Herod's palace? They're surrounded by chief priests and teachers of the law - men who've spent their whole life studying prophesies that tell of the coming Messiah. They listen to the prophesies, hearing:

"But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, 
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; 
for out of you will come a ruler
who will be the shepherd of my people Israel."

The priests and teachers know exactly where Christ is. But they aren't looking for Him. They're in Jerusalem, serving a false king, even though they know the true King of Kings is in Bethlehem. They're frozen in fear, stuck in their comfort zones.

The wise men are the ones who find Christ. They worship Him, bringing Him gifts, but also bringing Him their story of mistakes and failures. 

While I strive to be like the wise-men, aware of my mistakes but still striving towards Christ, I sometimes fall short. I know that I've been in the shoes of the chief priests and teachers. Sometimes I'm so afraid of moving a step closer to Christ in my spiritual life because I'm afraid I'll fall. I'm afraid I'll fail. It's then that I need to remind myself that epiphanies are often full of mistakes. The road to sainthood is often walked by those who stumble. 

As Catholics, we embrace the fact that we are made in the image of likeness of God - but that doesn't make us perfect. The older I've gotten, the more I've realized what a messy human I am. I let people down. I hurt those I love the most. I drag myself to confession because I've hurt the one who loves me the most. 

Pope Benedict XVI said, "Holiness does not consist in not making mistakes or never sinning. Holiness grows with capacity for conversion, repentance, willingness to begin again, and above all with the capacity for reconciliation and forgiveness." 

Our mess doesn't mean that we're not meant to worship Christ in Heaven. Our mistakes don't mean that sainthood isn't possible. But instead, as Christians, we're called to acknowledge our mistakes, and bring them to God. To have patience with ourselves, and to realize that we are more than the sum of our mistakes.  And to rejoice over the fact that epiphanies are often full of mistakes. 

An Empty Tomb, A Full Manger

I will never forget March 25, 2017. It was a Saturday, the day we lost our honeymoon baby at eight weeks.  It was the middle of Lent, and losing him was the hardest Lenten sacrifice that I think I will ever be asked to make. For days, weeks, and months, we grieved the loss of our little baby.  We named him Marion - a name we had thought about before knowing we'd have to name our baby 8 months earlier than we expected.  His name means 'sea of sorrow' and 'the child that was wished for.' 

We were still in the depths of grief when Easter Sunday came. We had planned on telling our extended family about the pregnancy at Easter, but instead we had told them about the miscarriage weeks earlier. I wanted to be joyful about the Resurrection of Christ, but the loss of Marion still overwhelmed everything. Still, we went to Easter morning Mass. It seemed like every pew was full of new babies and little toddlers, all dressed up for the holiday. 

Every Easter Sunday, I love listening to the Gospel account of Christ's resurrection and finding someone in the story to identify with. Some years, I'm with the women at the tomb, wondering where Christ is at. Other years, I'm Mary Magdalene, not able to recognize Christ in my life until He calls me by name. 

The Easter after we lost Marion, I thought for certain that I'd identify with Mary in the Easter story. We both had lost a son that Lent, after all. But at the end of the Gospel reading, I realized exactly who I was in the Easter story - I was the empty tomb. A resting place for someone, emptied out, feeling abandoned. 

My body had become a grave - the death site of our child within my very self. My body, a place where I had hoped a new life would grow, became the place where loss and death took place. My womb was a grave for a baby we would never get to meet on this side of Heaven. Yet, in the midst of this sorrow, I grieved while rooted in hope. The tomb on Easter was empty not because all was abandoned and hope was lost. Instead, the tomb was empty because it pointed to something greater, something bigger than the tomb could hold. It pointed to hope of new life, and told the story of how Christ conquered the grave. 

Even though Marion isn't here with us, in our arms, that doesn't mean he is gone forever. As Christians, we believe in a hope that tells us there is life after death. As Catholics, we profess this belief every Sunday when we stand together and pray the Nicene Creed. The time that we spend here on earth without Marion will feel like seconds compared to the eternity we hope to spend with him in Heaven, praising God. 

That realization didn't heal everything, though. Counseling, time with Joseph to heal together as a couple, heart-to-hearts with friends who had also experienced miscarriages, and spiritual direction also helped heal the wounds. 

As Advent approached this year, I dreamed of what it would be like if we were pregnant during December. How cute would it be to hang a little stocking between Joseph and I's stockings? I imagined what it would be like to share with friends and family gathered for Christmas about how we were expecting.

I prayed the Saint Andrew Christmas Novena, hoping for a positive pregnancy test. And as the month of December went by, my excitement grew. But then we took a pregnancy test and it was negative. 

Initially, I was frustrated  - mostly because God kept missing the memo about my life plan. But that frustration has been transformed during Advent.

We're not pregnant, but that doesn't mean the manger is empty.

Instead, this Christmas, the manger is overflowing with the joy for a baby who came in the manger years and years ago - but is still present in our lives today. This Advent has been a time where I've drawn close to God in prayer. Joseph and I have grown closer to each other through shared devotions. I've changed my Saint Andrew Christmas Novena intention. Now I pray for God's will in our future pregnancies, and for contentment with His plan. 

Christmas day will mark exactly nine months since Marion left this earth. When we first took a pregnancy test and found we were pregnant with Marion, I imagined spending this Christmas with a two month old in our arms. Instead, we're parents to a saint who is celebrating Christmas in Heaven. 

We celebrated Easter, rooted in the hope that an empty tomb brought. But we're celebrating Christmas with a full manger - a manger full of the promise of a baby who came to save us from our sins. And that's the best Christmas present I could ever receive.