Thursday, December 30, 2010

Letting God be First

The first two years of marriage were difficult. The first year of marriage was very difficult. I can say that with ease because our marriage is quite the opposite now, and it isn't because of books read or the sweet baby I just put down for nap time.

Fights have turned to a fuzzy remembrance in my mind now. Difficulties which seemed impossible to overcome now are daily gains of strength which draw Paul and I closer together. So, in reflecting on 2010 and all our/my blessings I couldn't help but think: Why? What changed in Paul and I? What clicked?

I've talked to friends on the phone or in person who, when asked about their marriage, claim some unruly beauty and peace in their home, some kind of magic happily ever after.  They effortlessly obliterate my lingering belief that, to some extent, newlyweds face the same struggles Paul and I did. When I listen to their honeymoon bliss of past or present my initial infantile reaction is You're just full of it!, and after I check my attitude exclaim some robotic, "Well, that's just great to hear!"  And, it is. I would never wish marital stress on anyone. For, marriage is almost always the greatest secret -- all around us people walk with a great secret living in their heart. Secrets of pure bliss. And some, unfortunately, of a great sense of hellish torment for marrying who they thought guaranteed that happily ever after.

My sister, Andrea, and my sister-in-law, Margery, will walk down the aisle next year to those men which make them feel down to their toes tingly with love. I can attest to the love and growth I see in both of these relationships. With great gratitude I will sit in the pew with my cuddly Thomas and my Paul and sing praises to God for pairing these couples together. What a grace it is to find someone to share the rest of your life with! What a blessing to marry that man who edifies and heals, loves, protects and provides.

But there's a very good reason we kneel throughout the Mass which unites us in marriage.  We kneel in reverence to the presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist because He is first. We kneel in awe and gratitude for his abundant love which allows for our spouses to be what they need to be [in loving, protecting, providing] within the vocation of marriage. We kneel in humility because we know we can't be all to each other. We kneel in saying, God, you are always first.

The past six months, I have put God first, so that Paul can be what he needs to be for us and for himself. Our marriage is not a holy string of prayer and discussion about faith. It is not complete unity in our adherence to the Catholic Church. It is not a perfection or a lack of sin. I would love it to be this, but it isn't today. But, I do lay down my desires daily as wife and as mother, and I do say, God, you are first. Take my desires and fears. Imbue your will and direct my path. You are the 1st healer, protector, provider.   This is more sufficient than I thought it would be. My heart desires much more, but this, this is good!

Letting God be God, letting Him be first is the liberation a marriage needs. It is the independence we seek and can't find in distorted lies of independence like incremental increases in time apart or money multiplied.

Praise God for the graces He bestows on us when we are ready to accept them!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Post Office Perspective

I was staring at three white envelopes, fearing what those measured wrinkles and ink blots meant. They were definitely in my purse for an unruly length of time. I stood there, in the post office, at one of those chest high plastic stations sticking pine cone decorated stamps on our outgoing business.

I wasn't sending Christmas cards like the lady to my right or mailing gift packages like the lady pressing fifty-odd buttons at the stamp machine [that has a much more complicated name than stamp machine but will be called stamp machine because I don't know any better and all I could think two spots back from the lady with the package was stamps stamps stamps like a greedy addict seeing his fix just up ahead. I guess my fix is sending mail on time. Whatever. ] to create her customized postage.  When it was my turn at this said 'stamp machine', I saw options for 1 booklet of stamps, 2 booklets of stamps, 3 booklets of stamps, 4 booklets of stamps, and 5 booklets of stamps, and immediately thought that it was absolutely inconceivable that they didn't have a choice to purchase 177 booklets of stamps. Honestly, I settled for three.

Back to me breathing a happy goodbye to those piranha of guilt hiding in my purse for the past week... or two.  I could hear my mom's voice in my head remarking on the luck in scoring pretty stamps. These winter beauties are quite a steal of a stamp... I am and was digressing until she showed up.

I can always hear them before I can see them. All you momma's out there know exactly who I'm talking about. Those people who come close and celebrate the cute features of your babies. Those people who make smiley faces and look like their day just turned into a brighter realm all because of a little spittle or some flingings of baby arms and some indistinguishable baby babble. Well, those people are always a-okay in my book. Come one. Come all.  

"Aw. Look at that smile. Your boy is so precious."

"Thank you. That's very kind." Sometimes, those words go on auto-pilot. 

She went on to say more than the usual. There were a string of sweet comments, praising what a happy boy Thomas is. The lady wore a light gray coat, softened by the wear of time. When I looked to her face, I saw softness there too. I felt I didn't have the right words to match hers. 

Gesturing to Thomas she went on, "That is my Christmas wish. I wish so bad I had a baby."

The woman is in her sixties. Gorgeous skin. A glow from someone who's really living. Someone you meet and feel instantly comfortable around like an old friend. Joy in her eyes, and yet... I felt an odd sadness, like she didn't mean a grandkid when she spoke of her Christmas wish. And I was right.

She leaned in real close to me and said hushed, "We were never able to have kids. Oh, I wanted them so bad."

I was speechless.  Such a personal moment in this quintessentially public place. I contained myself. I felt my arms wrap around her and yet stay stiff at my sides. She smiled and said one last thing before going back into the cold.  And this one thing seeped straight into my heart as ink to paper.

"Have a very Merry Christmas with your little angel."

I hope the moment came across the lines here. I hope this really isn't just one of those you had to be there. That woman brought me back to life. I'm always wishing away this working woman gig. But it's not about what we don't have. It's all about what we do. I guess, sometimes with much pain, we have to offer up the rest.

Honestly, I felt a little [A LOT] ashamed of myself and my poor attitude as of late. She's right. At my right hand side, I looked down and saw a living, breathing miracle just crying out for my attention. He is my little Christmas angel. And she might be another angel, too.