Last month, we invited our longtime married readers to share the experiences that have marked, refined, and anointed their marriages; months and years that, by grace, transform the mundane, the bitter, and the incomprehensible into the fruits of holy wisdom. A purification and a clear vision for the path to heaven that lies ahead. The Sophia Series.
It's our honor to début this series, one we hope will illuminate the realities, crosses, and joys of this married vocation for newer brides, with Amy Thomas's testimony. Married since 2001 and the founder of Catholic Pilgrim, an initiative inviting the faithful deeper into the great adventure that is life with Christ, Amy's journey to the Catholic faith has become an anchor through grief and witnesses powerfully to the life-giving love of the Lord.
I met my husband Dustin my junior year of college. It was my first day of Air Force ROTC. When I walked in I saw him sitting across the room, every fiber of my being cried out that he was the one. He felt like home to me. In a weird but beautiful way, it was like I already knew him. I was actually engaged to another man at the time, but I knew it would never work out with him, so I broke it off. Dustin and I were friends first, both secretly interested in the other but unable to say it out loud.
We finally got together after I announced my affection for him on my 21st birthday. I may or may not have had the help of a margarita. Once we realized the mutual feelings we had for each other, we just were. We never had an official first date or anything. Because we had been friends first, we knew each other and didn't need to get to know one another. Being in a relationship with Dustin was the most natural thing in the world for me.
At the start, neither Dustin or I were practicing our faith. He is Catholic and at the time, I was Protestant, but our faith lives were stagnant at best.
We decided to live together before marriage and, consequently, I got pregnant out of wedlock.
I could write an entire blog on why it's so important to wait to live together. Thankfully, we knew beforehand that we wanted to be married, and Dustin was always very committed to me throughout my pregnancy. We are an anomaly and don't recommend this strategy to anyone. We see now the beauty of what the Church teaches.
In June of 2001 we welcomed our beautiful daughter, Rhianna. Two months later, we were married. We were young--only 22--but very much in love.
We had the struggles any newlywed couple has, but along with the added struggles of being new parents right off the bat. We really grew up in those early years of our marriage, because we never had a chance to just focus on each other.
We had a baby girl with us from the get-go, and in many, many ways, I'm thankful to God for that blessing. Our daughter really did--and still does--bring out the best in us.
We had a second daughter, Sydney, in 2005. She came early and her birth is a crazy, whirlwind story, but today she's a happy, healthy teenager. After Sydney's birth, though, my husband and I slipped into a period of selfishness. It wasn't blatant or anything, but looking back I can see it clearly.
We weren't really going to church, because we couldn't decide on which church to go to. We fought frequently about my being Protestant and my husband being Catholic. We also were not open to life. I was using contraception from the start of our marriage, but I eventually stopped because it was literally killing me. I experienced severe health problems because of the Pill. I stopped taking birth control, but we weren't knowledgeable about NFP at all.
About this time, I started seriously discerning converting to the Catholic Church.
I threw a lot of lame arguments and misconceptions at my husband about the Church during our early years and he always had an answer that shattered my previous understanding. I finally saw the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith, and in 2009, I entered the Church. It truly has been one of the greatest blessings of my life.
At this same time, I became pregnant. It is terribly sad for me to say, but I wasn't happy about it. I had become very selfish and since my kids were getting older, I enjoyed a lot of "me" time. I didn't want to hassle with diaper bags, nursing, and car seats again. It pains me to say that I was not being the best version of myself. I wasn't being a good mother either, because I was so focused on myself. Eventually, I warmed to the life growing inside me and became excited to welcome this new little soul. Sadly, however, we lost that baby to miscarriage. It was crushing.
For the next four years, we experienced eight miscarriages. Each one was like a slash through my heart. No doctor would test me, and we had no clue as to why I was losing so many babies. My husband and I were utterly devastated. It got to the point, for me, that when I would get pregnant, I would fall into despair, knowing where it would lead.
I was very angry with God and couldn’t understand why He would put us through such suffering.
After my husband came back from a deployment in 2012, we talked about whether we wanted to try again for a baby. We both knew if we tried, we needed to approach it differently--we needed to bring God into the decision and pray.
So, in 2013, we tried again. This time when I took the test and saw two pink lines, I smiled. I ran to my husband and we hugged. It was a good feeling. We soon welcomed our son, Jeremiah.
My husband and I both know Mary was a great intercessor for us. We've experienced two miscarriages after Jeremiah, so we have 10 saints in heaven. I look forward to meeting them someday, and I know they keep a careful watch on their momma. I love them dearly; even though I have never met them, they have blessed me in ways I could never have imagined.
Each one of these children helped strip selfishness from my soul.
They help me to be a better mom to my earthly kids and for that, I am grateful.
This experience was definitely a trial in our marriage, but I think Dustin and I both learned our suffering can purge us of weaknesses and bad behaviors and attitudes. We know now to always bring God into our pain.
In fact, we know that you just don't do married life well without him. In our 16 years of marriage we've dealt with 10 miscarriages, a suicide by a family member, the divorce of my parents, and other crosses along the way. Dustin is my partner, and he is who I want holding my hand through the trials of this life. I want to be there for him, too.
My sister-in-law once told me that marriage is about learning to love well. I think that's true. If we commit ourselves to our spouse and strive to love him well, no matter what life throws at us we can weather it together and come out even better on the other side of the storm.
Amy's words of wisdom for brides:
Always actively look for ways you can grow and become a better wife. So often we focus on what our spouse needs to fix about himself that we never look at what we need to change.
Date your spouse. When kids come, you have to get creative, but it can be done. You and your husband need time to connect and enjoy each other without focusing on babies, bills, and burdens.
With men, just ask them. We ladies often want men to do things how we would do things. We want them to see the mess or anticipate what needs to be done. Most men just don't operate that way, yet most will be quick to help if you simply ask nicely.
No matter where you've been and where you are in your vocation, know of our prayers for you and your marriage. Feeling called to share your own story? Submit your Sophia Series testimony here.
About the author: Amy Thomas hails from the great state of Kansas, though she's lived the last 15 years away from the “Land of Oz” traveling the country with with her Air Force Airman. She graduated from Kansas State University in 2001 and married her love, Dustin, that same year. She has three amazing kiddos–two daughters and a son. Amy runs the website Catholic Pilgrim and loves to write about the incredible journey of living a genuine, authentic Catholic life.