The Feast of St. Joseph | A Fellow Human, A Saintly Spouse

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

Today is the feast day of St. Joseph: foster father of Jesus, spouse of Mary and head of the holy family. He was a carpenter, he was a man.

When we look to Joseph, we see a man who surrendered himself to the direction from an angel in his dreams. We read how he obeyed the command of God, loved and served Mary as his chaste spouse, and raised Jesus, the son of God, as his own earthly son.

Have you ever imagined when Mary and Joseph lost Jesus in the caravan, only to find him days later, preaching to adult men in the temple? My heart goes out to Joseph. The parameters of his mission were simple: love, protect, and guide Jesus and Mary. All in all, through obedience and grace, Joseph fulfilled his calling. But in this experience of losing Jesus and consoling Mary, I imagine Joseph was tempted to worry and despair.

Years later, Joseph died when Jesus was 30-years-old, on the brink of his public ministry. I picture Joseph lying on his deathbed, preparing to part from his earthly life. Joseph must have felt both sorrow and joy as he left his family with anticipation for his son’s powerful mission. I imagine the deep sadness of Jesus and Mary who said goodbye to their beloved.

Reflecting on the stories of Joseph bring his humble holiness to a human reality.

As we gaze at Joseph in statues and paintings, recall stories of him in Scripture or reach out to him in prayer, we encounter a friend. He is so approachable; a human man who intimately encountered the divine every day. This man who we rightfully honor with holy veneration was conceived with original sin. He was as human as me and you.

In the vocation to married life, we are sacramentally offered good and holy gifts such as intimacy, vulnerability, and companionship. Receiving and living out these gifts can often send individuals and couples to the heights of love, or can expose a raw wound of human brokenness. Perhaps in a moment of insecurity we believe, “I am not enough.” In the midst of an argument we fear abandonment. In prolonged frustration and anxiety, we despair and lose trust in God’s providence.

It may be easy to admire an icon of Joseph, Mary and Jesus and assume the immense joy in their family life. Amidst the celebration of such pure trinitarian love of the family, I hope against hope that there were days Joseph wished he could love Mary better. Or days when he was disappointed by how he received Mary’s perfect love. Joseph’s imperfections are the only stains of sin in the holy family, yet his entire being—holiness and imperfection combined—was destined for his specific vocation.

Through both his human imperfection and pure intention, God empowered Joseph to love Mary, show Jesus about the love between a husband and a wife, and receive love from his family. In the same way, we are each called to be fully present with God in our unique vocation, to love with virtue despite our own shortcomings.

God has so carefully woven two lives together in your marriage. On the days when your sinful, selfish, or short-sighted human nature is too much to bear, remember goodwill and purity of heart are enough for love. In striving to love and be loved, moments which expose brokenness do not define a limit for love. Rater, these moments help us identify where grace and mercy can provide healing. Joseph’s example offers peace and encouragement to every person, for our hearts to become a channel for God’s love to shine through.

St. Therese of Lisieux offers encouragement to little souls, to those who recognize their long journey to perfection, “Agree to stumble at every step therefore, even to fall, to carry your cross weakly, to love your helplessness. Your soul will draw more profit from it than if, carried by grace, you would accomplish with enthusiasm heroic actions that would fill your soul with personal satisfaction and pride.”

You are human. Joseph was human. If he could fulfill his vocation to the Holy Family, you can fulfill your vocation in your own holy family. You were created for a mission exactly where you are. As you bring your completely human heart to God, you will grow—with an ever-deepening purity of heart—in the capacity to love and be loved.

St. Joseph, you sought to bring glory to God in every action and word. Together with your pure heart, Mary’s Immaculate heart, and Jesus’ Sacred heart, guide me to embrace my human imperfection with humility so that I may receive God’s mercy and grow ever more deeply into the virtue of my vocation. St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus, pray for us.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephanie Fries is Spoken Bride’s Editor at Large. Stephanie’s perfect day would consist of a slow morning and quality time with her husband, Geoff, a strong cup of coffee, and a homemade meal (…with dessert). Read more

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The Confidence of a Covenant

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

As husband and wife come together as one body in the profession of marriage vows, man and woman are united through covenant. Though it is not only their participation in the sacrament which binds them ‘till death, but God’s active presence as the third member of the triune union. This truth of trinitarian love can become a source of confident peace “in good times and in bad.”

God desires to fill our minds and hearts with faith, hope and love. In our human experience, we are often tempted to despair. I invite you to reflect on the triggers which test your resilience against fear or doubt in your vocation. When we collaborate with God, he promises to give strength to our weakness and drive out fear through the grace of the sacrament.

PHOTOGRAPHY:   AVENUE CREATIVE

PHOTOGRAPHY: AVENUE CREATIVE

The deep intimacy of marriage and call for ongoing transformation is an experience of vulnerability and exposure. This vulnerability has the potential to reflect beauty itself, imaging the original nakedness and shamelessness of the human heart in God’s perfect design—before the fall to sin. Yet for some, myself included, the raw exposure of body, heart, and soul can initiate feelings of self-doubt, lack of trust, or worry for the future.

We are only human; we are not immune to fear.

Fear can take many forms in our lives, such as tension, defensiveness and a short-temper towards others, or apathy and hopelessness towards important matters. Whatever its form, fear affects our relationships.

In my own experiences, I can internalize my emotions, over-analyze circumstances, and seek means to gain control. Fear also materializes in the form of a question, a litany of asking, “what if?,” in times when God is calling me to surrender and trust his providence.

Any number of circumstances can provoke personal discord, such as separation over a distance, challenges with fertility, conflict involving extended family, financial burdens and professional stress. This list is nowhere near comprehensive of the challenges in family life. Yet no conflict or origin of fear is too big or too ugly for God to redeem, especially through the unbreakable bond of covenant.

Despite our brokenness, here is the source of unfailing, sanctifying hope: the sacrament of Matrimony is indefinitely bound to the gift of grace. “Christ dwells with [married couples], gives them strength to take up their crosses and to follow him, to rise again after they have fallen, to forgive one another, to bear one another’s burdens, to “be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ,” and to love one another with supernatural, tender, and fruitful love.”

He pours out his love to us and through us. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ created an unbreakable promise of love from God to his children. The vocation to married life is an invitation for us to participate—with God and our spouse—in this promise. Our responsibility is, simply, to remain in him.

When our value, security or identity is threatened by fear, the courageous Christian response is love. 1 John tell us, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear.” We do not acquire this perfect love through our own effort. Rather, we remember “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. In this is love brought to perfection among us.”

If we honestly identify our source of fear—as an individual or as a couple—and share it with God in prayer, he can begin to restore our hearts and our lives. We eventually break free from the chains of fear, love others in greater abundance, and receive love without hesitation or doubt. In essence, we fulfill our human design to love and be loved. We catch a glimpse of sanctification in our marriage, family, and community.

“Jesus has not placed on spouses a burden impossible to bear, or too heavy… It is by following Christ, renouncing themselves, and taking up their crosses that spouses will be able to “receive” the original meaning of marriage and life with the help of Christ. This grace of Christian marriage is a fruit of Christ’s cross, the source of all Christian life.”

Marriage is a party of three: man, woman, and God. Through our wedding vows, we are infinitely bound to both our spouse and our Creator. In seasons of sorrow or despair, courageously choose love. Enter more deeply into raw intimacy with trust. Enter more honestly into prayer with hope. When temptation to fear abounds, we are invited to stand with confidence upon our unbreakable sacramental covenant, in union with the presence of God, and anticipate the fulfillment of perfect love.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephanie Fries is Spoken Bride’s Editor at Large. Stephanie’s perfect day would consist of a slow morning and quality time with her husband, Geoff, a strong cup of coffee, and a homemade meal (…with dessert). Read more

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Newlywed Challenge | 3 Simple Ways to Reduce Screens in Your New Marriage

MARIAH MAZA

 

True confession: I love my screens. I love my phone that allows me to stay in contact with friends and family, listen to all my favorite podcasts, and stream my Amazon Prime watchlist. I love my laptop, on which I complete most of my work and writing projects, both at home and away at the local library or coffee shop.

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But for all their wonderful uses, screens can also easily take up the majority of our attention--to the point that their bright and noisy distraction numbs us to a sad reality: the slow replacement of intimacy in a relationship with self-absorbed technology.

It is a problem that can spring up especially in the initial transition from the single life into a married home. Bad technological habits that previously affected only yourself can suddenly have a very apparent and negative effect on your spouse, the person you now see everyday and share a bed with each night.

In fact, this is exactly what happened to my husband and I. Very soon after the wedding, I began to notice little, unexpected things in our marriage that felt “off” because of the presence of a phone, laptop, or TV screen:

When we would talk to each other, eye contact wasn’t always being made because one of us would be on our phone as we spoke. After a while, I began to feel painfully unheard and unseen simply because of the lack of “eyeball time” in our conversations (which is what I started to call it).

Later when we went to bed, we would bring our phones with us out of habit, scrolling and watching videos while laying next to each other, but not interacting. I began to experience an unrest in my heart, like the sacred space of our “marriage bed” was being invaded by our screens.

It didn’t take long for me to begin to resent the crowding presence of technology in my relationship with my husband, because I desired a deeper intimacy that seemed to be blocked by YouTube videos and my overuse of Facebook. Bad habits needed to be broken, but it wouldn’t be an overnight process.

Breaking screen habits can be very difficult, but for engaged couples or newlyweds, there are simple ways to prevent or reduce the overuse of technology in your new marriage before it becomes a problem. And it doesn’t necessarily require a total screen detox. By having an honest and vulnerable conversation with your fiance or spouse, I challenge you to safeguard your intimacy by trying one (or all) of these three tips to achieve a healthy “digital minimalism” in your vocation.

Go without a TV for the first 6 months

Be bold! If you are gifted a nice flat screen for your wedding or already have a TV, keep it safely packed away in storage. If you don’t have one, don’t worry about buying one. Not for the first six months, anyway.

Now imagine the unique foundation you could build in your new marriage without a working TV in your home or apartment. What fun, creative traditions could you begin? Instead of binge-watching your favorite shows together, find entertaining board games at a nearby store or friend’s house that you can play together. Go on a drive and explore the local area. Find a tasty new recipe and cook dinner together. Read a favorite book out loud to each other. Dedicate certain hours to prayer as a couple.

While a cozy movie night on the couch can be a wonderful date idea, I challenge you to discover a life without TV, and let yourself be surprised by all the memories you may not otherwise have made. Does six months sound too long? Try it for one month, or even a week after you settle into your new life together.

No phone zones

This is a very important boundary to set in your married life, and one that I forgot to seriously consider.

Ask yourself where the distracting presence of a phone screen could most hinder or infringe on intimacy in your marriage, whether it be spiritual, emotional, or physical intimacy.

Some crucial “no phone zones” could be the bed, the dinner table, or car rides.

In these special places, both you and your beloved agree to set down or turn off your phones and allow the focus to be on each other. In these places communication, eye contact, and self-giving love can thrive without distraction. If you are like me and use your phone every night as an alarm, consider placing it on a nightstand--or even better--on a dresser further away so you can’t reach for it in the middle of the night.

Download app timers

Most people are completely unaware of how much time they actually spend on different applications on their phone, laptop, or tablet. Utilizing apps that keep track of how long you spend on time-sucking platforms like Instagram or Facebook can be a shocking wake-up call to the reality of screen overuse.

There are also apps that lock you out of your phone for a specified time or shut down specific applications after a timer goes off. Some of these include OFFTIME, Forest, App Off Timer, and AppDetox, but there are dozens more options available.

Download a few and see which work best. If you notice your screen time decreasing and the quality of your marriage increasing, you’re doing something right!

So much about newlywed life sets the foundation and habits for the rest of your marriage, and your first year together is a special time that won’t come again. With this in mind, strive to start off strong with an intentional focus on your intimacy that builds confidence, trust, and respect.

So talk about boundaries now, not later. Be honest about your bad screen habits, make a realistic plan, and agree to hold each other accountable. This is just one way to practice sacrifice for the good of your spouse, an element of marriage that will come up again and again and again.

When I learned how to sacrifice my phone time out of love for my husband (even though it felt small), the bigger sacrifices that inevitably came in marriage didn’t seem as intimidating. And by the grace of God, we started practicing healthier habits: time limits, putting the desires of the other first, intentional intimacy-building activities, and persistent prayer.

Now I cherish every moment of precious eye contact so much more, and I feel more seen, heard, and known. When I see my husband put down his phone to come over and ask me about my day, my heart fills with joy and gratitude. Our marriage has been put first, and a little victory has been won.

God tells us that “a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” With each little victory over distraction, we become more and more “one flesh.” Don’t let a screen come between your marriage and this amazing sacramental mystery. Enter joyfully into it with your beloved, and watch how the Lord blesses your union.


About the Author: Mariah Maza is Spoken Bride’s Features Editor. She is the co-founder of Joans in the Desert, a blog for bookish and creative Catholic women. Read more

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Newlywed Life | There Is Grace in Recalling Your Wedding Day.

HANNAH GRAHAM

 

Shortly after my husband and I were married, I mentioned to a friend that I thought about our wedding day a couple times a week, if not more. I recently ran into this friend again at a wedding reception, not long after our first anniversary. Seeing me again, she inquired as to whether or not this was still the case, curious if marriage had impacted that habit of regularly remembering our wedding day.

I was happy to answer that experiencing the realities of married life is part of why I still contemplate and reminisce about that day just as often. The ceremony, Mass, the wedding party, the friends and family, the dancing, speeches, and pictures. Even after having our first child, I think about how profoundly those moments impacted us.

That day crosses my mind often, not only because it was the beginning of my vocation and the best day of my life, but because my life with my husband has become a reflection of that day.

The individuals who witnessed our vows still hold us accountable in our faith and vocation. We are still challenged by the Church to live our marriage as a witness to God’s love, in the same way we chose to that very first day. In the trenches of parenthood, two jobs, and living away from family, we are still asked to give ourselves--body and soul--over to the other.

I play through those grace-filled moments to remind myself of the high call my husband and I entered into, particularly when the crosses feel heavy.

In the midst of a million distractions, looking back on the intense desire my husband and I had—and continue to have—for the Lord refreshes the dusty parts of my soul.

I once heard it said that the grace God gives a couple in the sacrament of marriage is just as powerful as the grace he gives a priest to change ordinary bread into the body of Christ. Despite the heaviness life can bring into a marriage--financial struggles, misunderstandings, family tensions-- the wedding day is a reminder that laying down one’s life for another is a joy when done in love. This is what married life truly demands of all those who enter into the divinity of the sacrament.

If you haven’t done so, consider bringing your wedding day to prayer when you face challenges in your vocation. Doing so can remind you of the grace you are capable of calling upon, as well as the joy with which you entered into this union.

Even if you don’t face any immediate crosses in this particular realm, reflecting on the day with your husband can renew your desire to love selflessly and foster gratitude towards the Lord for how far you have come. Regardless of how long you have been married, reminiscing on that very first day will keep you aware of the truly divine romance you became a part of.


About the Author: Hannah holds a Bachelor of Arts in English along with minors in Theology and Catholic Studies.  She currently pursues her passion for freelance writing from her home in Minnesota, where she lives with her husband and their four month old son.   

Ash Wednesday Reflection | Memento Mori + Marriage

MARIAH MAZA

 

Memento, homo quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.

“Remember, you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Gen 3:19)

Ash Wednesday begins a period of deep internal reflection and penance. So as we walk into the dimly lit churches on the first day of Lent, let the solemn silence enter your spirit, and enter again with a vulnerable heart into the Paschal Mystery: the Passion, death, and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

“Teach us to count our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.” (Psalm 90:12)

The cross of ash we receive on our forehead is both an external sign of our sinful mortality and a reminder of the Divine death that was suffered for our salvation. An often-forgotten ancient spiritual penance comes to mind: the practice of memento mori, a Latin phrase that reminds us, especially in this season of Lent, to “remember your death.”

“Let us prepare ourselves for a good death, for eternity. Let us not lose our time in lukewarmness, in negligence, in our habitual infidelities,” admonishes St. John Vianney. And so, let us not remember our inevitable death with fear, but instead illuminated in the Christian hope of Eternal Life that awaits us beyond the threshold of our earthly lives.

In her devotional Remember Your Death, Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble reminds us “Jesus has defeated humanity’s greatest foe—permanent death in sin. All that remains for us to endure is bodily death. And Jesus has transformed even this fearsome reality into the doorway to heaven.”

“The Cross changes everything.”

Yes, let us remember death. Because “in whatever you do, remember your last days, and you will never sin.” (Sirach 7:36). Because each numbered breath, starting today, is one more reminder to live, to hope, and to love.

And for those who are engaged, newlywed, or veteran married couples, allow the practice of memento mori to become something even more profound: as you prepare to become one flesh--or already live one in flesh with your spouse--remember the death of your beloved.

Remember your vows you will make, or have already made. Remember you vowed “until death do us part.” Remember that part of the sacramental vocation of marriage is to prepare your beloved for a saintly death. You are called to help each other to Heaven.

“Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24)

Beginning today, with your fiancé or your spouse, help each other to carry your crosses as we walk the Way of the Cross with the Church. Whoever follows Christ will die with him, the God who didn’t even spare himself from the pain of death, but whoever follows Christ will also rise with him.

“Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)

Memento mori.

Further reading: Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble’s first 20 pages of her new Lenten Devotional Remember Your Death.


About the Author: Mariah Maza is Spoken Bride’s Features Editor. She is the co-founder of Joans in the Desert, a blog for bookish and creative Catholic women. Read more

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Change is Both Good and Hard: Wisdom from The Lion King

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

Have you seen the movie The Lion King? The characters are lovable, the songs are catchy, and the story is metaphorically relatable. Walt Disney produced a movie to not only entertain an audience, but to also share wisdom about real-life experiences such as growing up, surrendering anxieties, forgiving and receiving forgiveness, and pursuing a destiny.

When I recently rewatched the movie, I was struck by a scene which reflected my personal experience as a newlywed. In the context of the film, Rafiki, the baboon whose character is as colorful as his face, has encountered young-adult Simba. Rafiki is hoping to convince Simba to return to the pride land--the home where he would be King if not for the evil manipulation of his Uncle Scar.

In their conversation, Simba curiously looks into the sky and says, “Looks like the winds are changing.”

Rafiki responds, “Ahh, change is good.”

In an honest reply, Simba says, “Yeah, but it’s not easy.”

There is a dance in the tension between “both” and “and.” Both Rafiki and Simba. Both good and hard. Both joyful and painful. Both triumphant and agonizing. Both glorious and sacrificial.

When I approach the personal and circumstantial changes which have accompanied married life with the conviction that change is only supposed to be good—as fruitful and enjoyable—I create unrealistic expectations. I expect myself to adjust to a new environment with a level of gracefulness, simplicity, and ease that nears perfection; therefore, making a mistake or asking for help is a sign of failure. In this half-true perspective, I am overwhelmed by my constant mistakes, I am frustrated in my insecurities, and I bring tension into my marriage.

Can you relate? Do we allow ourselves to admit that change is both good and hard?

By shifting my perspective and embracing this whole truth, I become more gentle with myself. I align my will with what is good, and I simultaneously recognize the limits of my human capacity when the circumstances are hard. When I am at peace in understanding perfection is not possible, I accept tender affirmation and encouragement from my husband without denying his kindness. I grow in the fruits of the spirit.

Sisters, it is okay—freeing, in fact—to admit when something is just plain hard. All the while, our attitude can be both confident and humble; confident that, “I can do hard things,” and humble to say, “I can’t do this alone.” The honest and humble heart creates space for God to guide the way.

Consider how the season of engagement proclaims, as Simba says, “the winds are changing.” As we recall from Scripture, “A man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.” Marriage prep classes and wedding planning are visible signs of the active journey of two becoming one—a journey which continues for many years. Throughout those years, husbands and wives will be faced with innumerable new circumstances, transitions, and opportunities for change.

Saying I do is like dropping a rock in a pond and the resulting changes in our lives are the waves which ripple from the impact.

The ripple effect of external changes in married life could include moving to a new house or city, making new friends, creating different routines, establishing new hobbies and schedules, having a baby, sharing spaces and materials with your spouse, eating different foods, etc. The list goes on and on and is ever-changing with the seasons of our lives.

These adjustments, as simple as some may be, are both good—in the way they are a part of sharing a life together—and hard—in the demand for selflessness, virtue, discomfort, and surrender.

In addition to the external adjustments, our hearts undergo a transformation as well. Marriage requires a thousand deaths so we may grow together anew. By its nature, death is painful. Yet submitting to death-of-self, as a free and faithful act of holy love, is affirmed by God’s grace and supported in good community. Both good and hard. As we grow in self-awareness, intimacy with God, and intimacy with our spouse, we can enter more deeply into the trinitarian unity our hearts desire.

God knows every detail of the transitions in our lives. His grace will shine through each circumstance in a unique way. Do we trust his wisdom and glory? Or are we distracted by unfulfilled perfection and seemingly-useless suffering? The attitude and perspective we choose in each experience shapes our lifelong journey to holiness and our relationships with others along the way.

As we are honest with ourselves, we can be more gentle with ourselves. These attributes—honesty and gentleness—are not signs of carelessness or complacency, but of faithful cooperation with the Father of Mercy.

There will certainly be days when we have to dig deep, work hard, or push through temptation to accept certain changes in our lives. There will be days when we are surprised by joy and overwhelmed with the peace and freedom of change. Regardless of the emotions of experience, the truth echoes from the words of Rafiki and Simba, “change is good, but it is not easy.”

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Is God calling you to practice more honest self-talk? Does he yearn to offer you healing in the Sacrament of Confession? Does he want to show you the freedom in surrendering your expectations for perfection? In what new circumstance does God want to shower you with his mercy? Journey deeper with him this liturgical season to experience both the pain of the crucifixion and glory of the resurrection as we fulfill our vocations to love.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephanie Fries is Spoken Bride’s Editor at Large. Stephanie’s perfect day would consist of a slow morning and quality time with her husband, Geoff, a strong cup of coffee, and a homemade meal (…with dessert). Read more

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Why I Value My Love Story's Flaws

ABIGAIL GRIPSHOVER

 

Sometimes it seems the best stories are the ones that involve the most hardship. As a writer and bit of a romantic, I always hoped my love story would be a good one. However, I did not realize until after I was married that the many difficulties my husband and I faced while dating were the very things that would make our story exactly what I hoped for, one worthy of retelling.

This theme has continued into our marriage, and I have come to realize that our struggles are cornerstones, forming a strong foundation for the life we are building together; one that will hopefully last many decades and weather even the worst storms.

My husband and I were very fortunate, because we were each other’s firsts. We shared and experienced those magical little romantic things together: the specialness of the first date, the thrill of holding hands for the first time, the shyness of the first kisses lightly placed on cheeks. We made the most of our tiny college town, slowly filling every corner of it with memories that would never be forgotten.

But we also had to learn love’s hard lessons through each other.

I slowly came to the realization that this other person did not always see things the way I did, and I had to accept that his fears and opinions were different than mine, yet still deserving of respect.

We experienced the difficulty of growing up and changing while spending late nights and stressful study sessions trying to understand who we were after all of this.

During those formative years, it was all too easy to blame our own individual problems on each other.  After too many cycles of forgiving, forgetting, then falling into the same harmful patterns, it seemed like we were doomed to keep hurting each other, and we parted for what I believed to be the last time. He transferred schools and went back home while I returned to a very lonely campus to finish the second half of my junior year.

We were young, gullible, and at times, very dramatic. But we loved each other, and in the end, after some space and time, desperate prayers and tireless persistence on the part of my dear husband, we called our friends to tell them that we were not only back together, but also engaged and getting married in a few months.

Even though we were long distance, both of us living and working from home at this point, being engaged was truly incredible. It felt like the world was sparkling and everything we planned, whether it was the flowers for the church or the layout for our new apartment, promised to be perfect. We were married on a beautiful, warm day in February, and the wedding was even more than we hoped. It was intimate, elegant, and full of visible love.

But as our married life began, a distance fell between us we had never experienced before, and it seemed to grow and warp as the first week of marriage stretched into the first six months.

There was so much we didn’t understand, so many ways we were unprepared for what was coming. New responsibilities caught us by surprise and normal mood swings were interpreted as personal attacks. We felt like we came from different planets, and the peace we had reached together only months before seemed to crumble in our hands.

In our first year of marriage, we moved twice, changed jobs, lived long-distance for over a month, confronted broken promises, and fell under the curse of chronic illness. Money was tight, tensions were high, and hurts ran deep. And so we prayed. We prayed harder than we ever had before, reached out for help, and remembered our vows. We had committed to each other, and we were not going to give up now. Scott Hahn once said,

“The grace of the sacrament does not make marriage easy, it makes it possible,”


We called upon that grace to save us. In response, God healed us and gave us the eyes to see the reasons for our hardship. We were able to recognize him guiding us as we renewed our promises.

When we stood before our family and friends on our wedding day and vowed to forsake all others for each other, we had no idea those vows would be tested so quickly. I always assumed the “for better” part came first, and the “for worse” part came later, and learned that is not always the case. Yet through our Lord’s grace we stayed. Our love became like a broken bone, stronger once healed than it ever was. As we live through our second year of marriage and continue to face new hardships, we have been able to lean on each other.

When we wake up side by side and look into the eyes we fell in love with, we both feel so grateful God gave us to each other. We both are brought to tears when we think of everything we would have lost, had we given up during the hard times. And now, as we both wonder at the movement of our little baby still growing inside me, we cannot wait to watch our life continue to grow through the hands of the Lord into so much more than it ever could have alone.

In the song “Enough to Let Me Go,” the band Switchfoot writes,

“If it doesn’t break your heart, it isn’t love.”


Even though I liked the song, I never understood that verse. This love story of mine has changed that. Marriage can be truly heartbreaking, but not always in bad way. Sometimes it breaks my heart because it is just so incredibly good.  My poor, feeble brain cannot comprehend or process the outpouring of love, delight, and gratitude that surges through me when he wakes up and smiles at me or takes my hand in the grocery store while we talk about ridiculous things.

Our love story is only beginning. Though I may be biased, I can say I’m thoroughly hooked and cannot wait to see what the next chapter holds, even if it’s a difficult one.

After all, God is the original author, and he knows how to write a good ending for every type of story. Especially a love story.


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About the Author: Abigail Gripshover is a part-time editor/social media manager and full-time housewife.  When not working, you can find her catching up on book club readings, rearranging furniture, or organizing her planner while listening to music.  She lives at the beach with her wonderful husband, and they are expecting their first baby. 

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