2 friends, 2 vocations: sisterhood & married life

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One of my best friends, Melissa, is an “aspirant” in a religious order, meaning she is preparing to become a fully-vowed religious sister one day (there are a series of vows over many years). Similarly, I am engaged, preparing to become a Christian wife this upcoming April. 

Recently, I was looking at pics of Melissa, who now lives in a convent (and has an apostolate chockfull of various duties, such as teaching). I saw her radiant smile shining the love of Jesus! JESUS: her all-in-all, her MAN… the Son of God made man! There she was, in her beautiful uniform. Radiant. In every picture.

The pictures had me thinking… I feel like I was sorta a “wannabe” religious sister before I met my fiancé. Simply put, the entirety of my days revolved around Our Lord. Much of my time was devoted to Him. Because I was single, it was easier to have a more singular focus on my spiritual walk with and worship of Jesus.

When I was 25, dating for the first time had me feeling very odd at first. I was jolted into another way of existing: loving Jesus, but also loving a human man like I love Jesus.

Dating meant making time for daily Mass, holy hours, and morning/noon/evening/night prayer and as well as for daily significant-other conversation, date nights, and relationship building.

So much was new to me: talking out misunderstandings like there was no tomorrow, making surprise brownies like it was a sacred duty, entrusting to this young man my vulnerabilities when I had never laid them out to anyone.

I began to see that Matt deserved my attention, adoration, and sacrifice as Jesus did, albeit in different ways. My new mission was not just to love my perfect Jesus, but also to love an imperfect man in His name. And to be trusting enough to let Matt love an even-more-imperfect me.

Gazing at the radiant smile of my “sister-in-training” friend, Melissa, the presence of the Son of God Made Man could not be more apparent with her. And, after reflecting, I can see how Jesus is present in my relationship with my purely human man as well. I have not left Jesus. In loving Matt, I am loving Jesus in new ways that I have not loved Him before.

In dating / courtship and engagement, my love for Jesus been put to the test! In the past two and a half years, I have tasted the decisive love of the Cross in unforeseen ways. Ultimately, I have learned that with grace, with the life of Jesus within, selfless love is possible to give as well as to receive.

My attention?

To decrease on myself, and to increase on Matt. My Ultimate Question: “How can I serve him better?” In serving Matt, I serve Our Lord!

John 3:30 reads: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

My adoration?

On Matt’s personhood, his manhood: on his being made in the image and likeness of God. And as the man in our future marriage, on his being our image of Christ: my spiritual “head” to whom I am to “submit” or to “be subject.” On respecting and adoring Matt as a son of God, I am respecting and adoring Our Lord!

Ephesians 5:22-23 reads: “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.”

My sacrifice?

To lay my life down for Matt. Every. Single. Moment.

John 15:13 reads: “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

The two biggest differences between my friend who is in the convent and me?

FIRST. Jesus will be my friend’s “head” while Matt will be mine. He will be my head, I will be his body. Matt and I will be an indivisible team, united by God as “one flesh”! In the ups and he downs, the joys and the sorrows. Together, we will reflect the entirety of Jesus; we will also reflect Jesus the Groom with His Bride, the Church.

SECOND. My friend will have Christ as her “husband” to sanctify her and lead her to Heaven. On the contrary, Matt’s and my shared mission as husband and wife is to sanctify one another via loving one another with the unconditional love of Jesus. And, get this: it is only when we are BOTH alive in Jesus that He will be able to lead us as “one flesh” into Heaven. I am accountable for Matt’s soul and Christian discipleship as well as my for own. And as for our possible future children: we will also be accountable for them so long as they are in our care. These duties are not to be taken lightly!

It is always so fun to receive a letter from Melissa, or to call her, or to meet up with her. Girl talk abounds; but the funny thing is, we could just as easily call it “vocation talk”!

“Vocation” comes from the Latin word “vocare,” meaning “to call.” As Melissa and I follow the Lord’s call in our respective vocational journeys, it is a sight to behold the parallels in our shared calling to Christian discipleship. Although we have two very different vocations, we have more similarities than we can imagine! For at the root of both of our vocations is the Cross, on which hung our sweet and powerful King, Jesus.

What an adventure life has been for both of us, and what more adventure awaits!

A.M.D.G.

sex & sexuality: a gift

Under How Many Suns

Under how many suns have we embraced
In what long fields of flowers and streets of stone
In the strong light of summer, interlaced
And made, like God, a darkness of our own.

Oh when the bitter wind of longing blows,
And all between us seems an aching space
Think that we hold each other close, so close;
We cannot even see each other’s face.

— Gilbert Keith Chesterton

…A poem by the intelligent, witty, and… yes, romantic… G.K. Chesterton.

The first stanza mentions a “darkness of our own,” and I initially asked myself, “What ‘darkness’ does God make? That’s impossible: He’s all light!” I then realized that darkness here does not refer to evil. Rather, “darkness” here is one not only “made” (as Chesterton describes) but begotten: the MYSTERY of the most INTENSE union of three Divine persons in one God!

Yes, the Trinity is the deepest intimacy that will EVER exist: an eternal exchange of love between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. And the Trinitarian mystery of God is “dark” to our unenlightened human mind on this side of Eden.

Similar to the Trinity, my dear fiancé and I have also created a “darkness of our own,” an intimate world such as that to which Chesterton alludes. We, too, are “close, so close,” that our begotten “darkness” is hidden to everyone else, just as the Trinity is to mankind.

The inside jokes. The little quirks we take joy about in one another. Our couple habits, rituals, and traditions. Our shared past-times and interests, the things that only we know about one another. The rhythm of that ebb and flow of our shared days, one after another, marked out by our prayer-life…!

And as a long-distance couple, O, have we known that “bitter wind of longing” and that “aching space” mentioned in the second stanza! Moreover, that “aching space” can also refer to our joint striving towards chastity. 

To be honest, there are indeed moments when we desire to give all of ourselves to one another, body and heart, in the so-called ‘marital embrace’ (a nice euphemism for sex). The relationship’s MYSTERY can just feel so INTENSE sometimes; the other person’s personal mystery can feel so intense, too, that you just want to be one united, body and soul. 

As Blessed Pope John Paul II spoke of in the “Theology of the Body,” God has designed the human body and the human heart in such a way that when a man and a woman are in love, they strongly desire, to the core, to gives themselves to one another in totality. Yet a ‘total’ exchange of self to the other can only happen in the context of marriage, due to the unique design of sacramental marriage!

Human sex and sexuality is indeed a gift from God. God wills our good by giving it to us, and it is our privilege and duty to offer it back to Him via living chaste lives as according to our state in life. For instance, chastity looks different if you are dating/engaged vs married.

When my fiancé and I are affronted by that “aching space” Chesterton mentions, we try our best to remember, in joy, that saying a firm “No” to pre-marital physical desires is actually exclaiming a resounding “Yes!” to one another and to God.  

By trying to live chastely, it is our prayer that we are saying “I love you” as the Italians say it: “Ti voglio bene!”—literally, “I will your good.”

basstreble

engaged

[NOTE] Anyone reading this who may think, “Well, it’s too late for me,” remember: Satan lives in the past and in the future, but JESUS lives in the Present Moment, and His love and His mercy extends to us ALL. JESUS wants you to heal, to be integrated and whole!

WHERE ARE ALL THE REAL MEN?: what a WOMAN wants

ImageOK, so recently my girl friends and I… I mean my women friends and I… have been discussing the aspects and characteristics in men that we desire.

Some common aspects (NOTE: by no means is this an exhaustive list) are the following – just thought it’d be fun to write out.

REAL MEN that women HOPE to be PURSUED BY…

Have intention, intention, intention – all rooted in respect! The key foundational words behind real men are “intention” and “respect.” Yes, real men open doors for you. But, they do so much more as well!

COURAGEOUS & BRAVE

FIRST OF ALL, they have the courage to contact you personally (step one), without the help of anyone else, to show you that THEY want to pursue YOU.

They have the guts to fearlessly approach you, taking the chance to be rejected by you, but also taking the greater chance to get to know your GREAT MYSTERY within!

And, if you acquiesce…

They call you up and tell you about where they would like to take you.

When that will happen.

And how it will all go down.

(Ladies, you don’t have to keep looking at your phone wondering, “When will he call / text?” If you’re doing this number, he’s probably not worth your time.)

GOOD DATE-PLANNERS: QUALITY TIME

Real men will take you out on dates that they think you will enjoy.

Moreover, they will have you meet people that they may think will be important to know or have you engage in activities that are personally meaningful. It won’t just be one-on-one mushy time all the time. It will be getting to know their friends and family, your friends and family, and you in all of your various “settings” and “activities”!

Real men plan activities that you can serve others through as well as get to know one another through.

Real men plan activities that you can bond, laugh, smile, and play through – but also seriously see one another’s true colors through.

EMOTIONALLY HEALTHY

Real men will ask and answer questions that they believe will lead you two to become closer.

Real men will be open in conversations, and not want to play games by hiding things, being manipulative, etc. They are healthily assertive, and are not domineering, passive, nor passive aggressive (watch out for all of these!).

Real men will be careful with their words, i.e. the first time they say “I love you” (is it too soon? that could be a red flag!).

Real men will also be careful about thinking about the first time they broach the subject of marriage and babies, as this can REALLY play mind tricks on a young woman.

(Think: oxytocin. Real men respect the oxytocin levels of women!)

Intention… Ah, what an attractive quality for a young man to have! Truly, intention can woo and whisk a young woman away. And respect in that intention is what makes it so golden!

– Get to really know you and have a long term objective in courting you. As illustrated above, real men have gotten to know you well before courting you. Yes – courting, not dating – read on for the difference. Real men become a friend first.

This “friends first” mentality and carefully thought-out courtship, versus spur-of-the-moment dating, helps protect the woman’s heart.

COURTING VS. DATING

Women are emotional beings. When men haphazardly date a woman, emotions usually end up mired and hurt. But when men intentionally court a woman, emotions are better protected and the woman usually feels truly cherished and cared for.

Now, I know this “dating” versus “courting” is a toughie, because a lot of men meet women and are just *taken* by them right away (who can blame them?). Thus, most men start chasing right away.

However, is this really being prudent about his heart or the woman’s heart? How often does this blind “chase” ever end up in a lasting marriage?

Rather, real men woo women by spending quality time with them – and especially in friend and family settings – to really get to know the woman.

What is her character? Her interests? Her hopes? Her dreams? The way she operates? Real men study.

ATTENTIVE NERDS, STUDYING THE ELUSIVE WOMAN

YES, real men are NERDS: they study the woman they love like it’s their job! Yes, even though women seem like all-too complicated, elusive mysteries to men.

The most important questions in her mystery”to be explored may be: “What are her beliefs, values, and morals? In what is her faith? What gets her up in the morning?”

Sharing the answers to these questions, and really growing in sharing those convictions and living them out, together, proves for a sturdy foundation that will last.

AIMING FOR A PHD

AND, when real men want to “go in for the PhD” in their woman – that is, when they have really gotten to know her, prayed for and thought about her, and believe she is marriage material – then and only then do they begin to pursue!

Mere “dates” actually turn into a relationship. An already-close friendship is taken to the next level. And that next level is not just a relationship; it’s courtship!

Know how to provide financially. Real men save the courting for when they actually have a steady source of income and/or a career.

Why? Yes, because they want to make sure that they can pay for all those activities and dates. But moreover, because they yearn to support that “long term objective” of marrying the woman they are pursuing!

ACTION PLANS

Real men have action plans about turning a relationship into a courtship and into a marriage.

A steady income, a house, health insurance, a car, car insurance, grocery bills, Internet and phone bills, electric and water bills… the cold hard realities of LIFE are endless.

Real men take these necessities into consideration because they want to make sure their princesses can eventually feel like queens who are well taken care of.

[NOTE: Of course, women often work and pitch in (or are even the main breadwinners), but real men don’t want that to be the case unless the woman has consented and agreed to do so.]

Know how to provide emotionally. I am not saying that a real man always has to “be in touch with his feminine side” or talk about his feelings 24/7.

All I am saying is that women have emotional needs and ups and downs, and sometimes emotional times make a relationship seem like the craziest new roller coaster at the local Six Flags.

Real men know how to ride the roller coaster.

RESPECT, WONDER, & AWE FOR GENDER DIFFERENCES

Instead of just “dealing” with the emotions, and going along for the ride with a groan in his voice, a frown on his face, or a flaring temper – a real man appreciates that a woman is wired differently than he is: including her emotional workings.

Emotions are part of her beautiful design.

Instead of making her feel guilty or inadequate – or like she just needs to “man up” – a real man bears with his woman in patience, fidelity, and love, especially in her most emotional times.

Yes, sometimes she may ask very silly-sounding questions that just beg for some affirmation from her man. But her real man answers promptly and lovingly.

No mind games. No joking. No manipulation. Just love.

– Know how to lead spiritually. Real men are loyal – not only to their woman, but moreover, to their LORD Jesus Christ. [NOTE: Or, to their faith value system of choice. But do bear in mind that this is a Catholic/Christian blog :-).]

There is nothing more attractive than a man who says, “OK, we should start morning prayer!” or “Let’s pray night prayer before we’re too sleepy.”

PEACE OF SOUL

A man who has a close relationship with God has peace of soul.

And a man who has peace of soul is not just a “man.”

He is a man of God.

He is a soldier – a warrior – fighting for Truth and Beauty.

And what is Truth? His Faith.

And Who is Beauty? Our LORD Jesus Christ, but also… his beloved beauty: his girlfriend, fiance, or wife!

There is nothing more attractive than a real man who wants to bring his woman to God – to present her, holy, pure, unblemished! A real man wants to carry his woman to the gates of Heaven, and in the end be able to say:

“Here she is, LORD. I’ve loved her to the best of my ability every day of my life. I’ve tried to place her above me every day of my life. I’ve tried to die to myself for her every day of my life.” What, oh what, is more romantic than that?!

YES, a real man wants to help his woman to be as fruitful as her Creator has designed
her to become.

A real man wants to help his woman to be FULLY ALIVE in Our LORD Jesus Christ.

– Knows how to protect. Especially in terms of chastity. There is no questioning and there is no joking about chastity or “chastity rules”, respectively, for it and they are no laughing matter.

Who cares if the world thinks you two are prudes, or “not in with the times”?

Real men know they have a battle worth fighting for: true love.

Real men know who they are fighting for in this battle: their souls, and the soul of their woman. All for the glory of God: for Love Himself.

NO “FLIPPY-FLOPPY” OR SNEAKY “CONVINCING”

Chastity-wise, in times of passionate encounter (which in any healthy relationship there will be!), real men ask no questions like, “Can I do this?” or “What about that?” re: obviously unchaste acts.

Real men do not finagle their way around their woman’s moral code regarding her physical boundaries.

In the heat of the moment, a real man does not get her to “change her mind.”

BOTTOM LINE: A real man does not want his woman to feel used at any cost!

RATHER, real men know what their physical boundaries are, and they establish them by discussing them with their woman at the beginning of the relationship and all along the way.

MASTERY OF DISCPLINE & SELF-CONTROL

Turn a woman on, and you’re playing with her heart.

Real men understand this and remain gentlemen by not intentionally igniting their woman’s passions in a very tempting way.

Real men always strive to protect their woman’s purity. And when they mess up, a quite human thing to do, they step it up a notch. Pretty simple.

In conclusion…

Real men DO NOT just immediately say (or text, Facebook message, and/or e-mail) empty words of affection to the woman to whom they are merely attracted. Instead, they save that for when they really have decided to love the woman.

Real men DO build up to the point of “I love you” and “Will you marry me?,” so that when they finally do say those words, they mean it.

Real men DO NOT lay around with their woman’s minds or hearts, emotionally or physically. (Kind of a no-brainer.)

Real men DO make sure that they are not careless with their woman’s mind or heart, emotionally and physically. Real men DO truly cherish their beloved woman by saying, “You’re worth the wait.” Real men save passionate sexual expression and sex for marriage for they ardently believe that…

Only a forever vow from a real man can earn a woman 100% body and soul.

Yes, a real man courts a sought-after woman like a real gentleman!

“SHE’S GOD’S DAUGHTER FIRST & MY SIGNIFICANT OTHER SECOND”

And a real man does not think “she’s mine,” but rather: “I am going to pursue this daughter of God in order to earn her. Then, and only then, after my pursuit and my fight for her, do I have the right to call her mine as well as God’s.”

DEVOTED & VALIANT WARRIOR: “MY WOMAN IS WORTH THE FIGHT”

Real men protect their woman, provide for their woman, and love their woman.by devotedly and valiantly chasing their woman as if she is standing at the top of a castle turret! Yes, real men know that they are standing at the bottom, professing their love for her, but moreover, climbing, tooth and nail, to the very top!

[Think: a man literally using his front teeth to climb that stone wall! YES. THAT IS A REAL MAN.]

Real men heroically love their woman by showing her that she is worth being fought for, and earned, via virtue and strength.

Well, I may have missed many things, but…

Real women, I know that you know what your FEMININE HEART wants. Do not be afraid to look for that courageous man who will be gentle with you, respect you, pursue you, and fight for you, every day!

Do not be afraid to look for a man who will be selfless enough to know that love is sacrifice.

In a world of boys, it’s hard to find real men, but it’s worth waiting for that real man. Your dignity and true love are calling.

AMEN.

#TheEnd