Grief + Grace: Suffering a Miscarriage as Newlyweds

KATE THIBODEAU

 

As newlyweds, we approach our first years of marriage in a blissful state of faith and hope. We make vows to our spouses to remain with them for better or worse, richer or poorer, till death do us part.

I specifically remember the utter happiness of my wedding day--the very best day of my life--with no thought that sadness could so easily creep into these early days of joy and peace.

God gifts to married couples a specific store of grace to carry them through the learning curves and the hardships of creating a life together. These graces  help us to learn sacrifice and charity and to offer ourselves and our desires up for the better of our spouse.

It is through these graces we are able to heal from wounds given to each other, the daily hardships we encounter, and for my husband and I, the greatest trial of all--the loss of our children.

 A few months into our very ordinary and blissful marriage, my husband and I suffered the miscarriage of our first baby. We had not planned for this little one; in fact, we had prayed for clarity in our decision to start our family and discerned that waiting was in God’s plan for us. However, the short duration of our unexpected baby girl’s life tugged at our heart strings. Despite God’s prudence to call her home so soon, we grieved the loss of his gift.

In our sorrow, I remember both a spiritual darkness and an overwhelming shower of grace that affected not merely my personal grief, but our marriage. My husband and I were called to grieve together; to openly suffer and mourn in a new way.

I remember thinking the honeymoon phase was officially over as I sat speechless, watching my husband sob for our baby girl.

There was no more need for blithely skirting around each other and putting on a happy face, confident our love would overcome hardship. Our strength now was found in experiencing, together, God’s change of plan for our lives.  

Sorrow and tears were followed by anger with God, frustration with my body, and an overwhelming sense of questioning our loss. I found myself sitting in the confessional, telling the priest through tears that I struggled with doubt in God’s decision, failing to understand how his sense of timing could be just or correct.

I fought fears that my husband could not suffer in communion with me, as he did not physically carry our child as I did. I listened to songs that made me think of my girl. I wrote letters to her that she would never read, bought a Christmas ornament to suffer through the holidays without her, and I cried through the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary, searching for the joy in my life.

My husband and I sought out the sacraments for graces and worked together to grow through our loss. We prayed a novena for answers, we picked a name for our little one (Charlotte Rose), inspired by St. Therese, who gave us great peace. We asked Charlotte’s intercession in her closeness to Jesus, that she may petition for the safety of her brothers and sisters to come. My husband and I prayed together through the tears and questions.

Our miscarriage journey is the greatest test of our faith as a couple so far: faith in our strength as a team, faith in our Catholic family, and most importantly, faith in God’s ultimate timing in our lives. 

We are daily showered in grace upon grace. We are gifted humility in trust of God’s plan and his full control of our family. We are gifted patience as we yearn for another child following baby Charlotte Rose. We are gifted contentment in approaching our newlywed existence sobered and stronger to pursue God’s mission for our family.

In sharing our loss with other newlyweds, I hear a common cry of families who suffer their losses both in silence and in community. Their relationships are tried by fire and strengthened by God’s infinite store of grace given through the sacrament of marriage. God calls couples to the joy and pain of marriage together. He does not give us tasks that are beyond our reckoning.

While there is no deadline to the grief that comes with the loss of our child, my husband and I are still learning to grow as one in our suffering, having found a new depth in dependence on each other and God’s mercy.

With the blessing of our “rainbow baby” to come this fall, I am daily reminded of the gifts of life and love to marriages, and those that are taken too soon.

May we always keep those couples suffering in our prayers, that they may not lose faith in God’s timing, but to be encouraged to look for the grace and strength that follows the storm. May we ask our angel babies to intercede for us from their blessed seat with God. May we ask Mary to bring joy into our newlywed struggles and fill us with restored hope.


About the Author: Recently married to her best friend and partner towards salvation, Kate Thibodeau is learning how to best serve her vocation as a wife while using her God-given talents. Mama to angel baby, Charlotte Rose, and soon-to-arrive Baby Thibs, Kate has an English degree from Benedictine College, and strives to live in the Benedictine motto: that in all things, God may be glorified. Kate loves literature, romance, beautiful music, pretty things, wedding planning, and building a community of strong Catholic women.

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Love is Accountability, but Accountability is Not Always Love.

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

Holding someone accountable can be an act of love, but loving someone does’t always include strict accountability. At times, there is an intersection between spousal love and accountability. How do you and your spouse hold each other accountable for virtue while maintaining free, total, faithful, and fruitful love?

Imagine, for example, if my husband sets a goal and asks me to hold him to not eat dessert for three months. Because I love him and want to support his ambition for a greater good, I would do everything in my power to limit the temptations. I wouldn’t make his favorite chocolate chip cookies, I wouldn’t eat dessert in front of him (or if I did indulge myself, I would not tempt him with an offer). Maybe I would consider joining him for part of the fast as a partner along the journey.

But perhaps the cravings become too much to bear and my spouse ends his plan early. If he makes up his mind and calls it quits, I arrive at the crossroad: do I respond as his accountability partner or his spouse?

As an accountability partner, detached from marital love, I would remain in encouragement mode. I would pull out all the tricks to help him stay the course and, if necessary, use a stern approach of tough love, set towards fulfilling my role in holding him to his plan.

The reaction must shift, in some ways, when I see his struggle and love him as my husband. In the shared journey toward sanctification, I will initially encourage my spouse to fight through temptation toward a greater good—to a point. Eventually, we have to let our loved ones make their own choices. In these moments, we are called to prudence and self-control to uphold our spouse’s freedom.

The 1968 Encyclical Letter, “Humane Vitae,” defines four core adjectives of pure love: free, total, faithful, and fruitful. Fruitful love is open to new life—in parenthood, virtue, or spiritual fruits of the Holy Spirit. Faithful love echoes the marital vows, “I promise to be true to you, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer; I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.” For love to be total, it is an absolute gift of self—mind, body, and spirit—from one person to another.

Love is free in how it is given and received. Pure love is a free gift without expectation to receive anything in return. There is no room for manipulation or coercion. Free love grows through the virtue of complete generosity.

In some ways, loving someone with freedom can pose an obstacle in holding someone accountable when we surrender our mission of accountability in order to respect their free will. When we love someone, we don’t want to see them fail or fall, especially when we have been tasked with supporting them. Yet with a purity of heart, we must honor the freedom of the other. In marriage, the crossroad between love and accountability is where God must enter, filling our hearts with trust, peace, and hope.

We look to the way God loves us to understand how to love our spouse with a pure heart. From the beginning of time, God offers every human autonomy and free will in decision making with a promise of unconditional love. When we reach to him as our divine accountability partner, he provides grace and encouragement, but his steadfast love will never force us to make a choice against our personal freedom.

His example of perfect, unconditional love models the balance between serving your spouse solely as an accountability partner and loving your spouse as your beloved.

By rooting ourselves and our marriages in Christ’s love, we can hold our spouse accountable yet show them mercy when they fall to temptation. We can ask God for prudence and wisdom through the challenges of marital love. We can confidently hope for redemption and sanctification.

Holiness does not look like one spouse dragging the other to the gate of heaven, against their will. Holiness is remaining side-by-side, though perhaps several miles away from heaven’s gate—loving through freedom, for freedom, and by the power of free love. In the pure and holy spousal union, God’s mercy reaches beyond our human limitations, redeems our brokenness, and carries us to his infinite peace. ”This love… is an act of free will, so that husband and wife become in a way one heart and one soul, and together attain their human fulfillment.”

I encourage you to reflect on past or current circumstances where the responsibilities as a spouse intersect with the responsibilities as your spouse’s accountability partner. Let us grow in love as we discern the opportunities to love with greater freedom, deeper mercy, and stronger hope in the journey toward sanctification.

When have you and your spouse held each other accountable while maintaining free, total, faithful, and fruitful love? What circumstances bring you to the crossroad between accountability and freedom? Share your story with our community on Facebook or Instagram.


About the Author: Stephanie Fries is Spoken Bride’s Associate Editor. Stephanie’s perfect day would include 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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Tips for Forgiving Your Spouse

CARISSA PLUTA

 

Forgiveness plays a huge role in any healthy relationship, especially your marriage. But as most of us know, forgiveness is often easier said than done.

Every couple knows that disputes and miscommunications will happen in even the best of marriages. And when they arise, it can be easy to shift blame or hold grudges.

I personally am often stubborn and slow to forgive. I prefer to nurse my hurt feelings and hold on to anger longer than I should. But married life has challenged me to let go of my harmful pride and more readily extend forgiveness.

Keep in mind these tips are for “minor” marital disputes and issues. Consider counseling if there are more serious problems or issues that need attention.

Give them the benefit of the doubt

When arguing with your spouse, it’s easy to assume the worst in them. More often than not, the problem is caused by a lack of communication or a moment of immaturity than viciousness or spite.

Remembering that your husband is on your team and ultimately desires your good helps you listen with more fairness and understanding. It’s not meant to undermine the harm done, but helps you approach the situation with more clarity and trust.

Switch perspectives

When you start to get frustrated or angry, it is helpful to try to put the shoe on the other foot. Try to ask yourself: “how would I want him to respond if I was apologizing for the same thing?” We would want to be forgiven, of course!

Viewing the situation with this mindset can help soften your heart and put you in a disposition to forgive.

Pray

There is nothing wrong with admitting that you need a little extra grace when it comes to forgiving your spouse.

Saying a prayer like the “Our Father” or the Jesus Prayer can help prevent your feelings of frustration from escalating. It can calm you and recenter you on what is truly important.

But you don’t have to wait until the moment you need the grace the most to ask for it! Ask God daily to help you be more forgiving so, when the opportunity arises, you are more prepared.

Say it Aloud

Saying the words “I forgive you” are more than a formality, it is actually a major part of the forgiveness process.

This phrase is far more powerful than saying “It’s OK” to someone’s apology. It not only recognizes and affirms that a wrong has occurred but also makes your forgiveness more tangible. It’s humbling, not only for the person you are forgiving, but for yourself as you make the choice to live out your vows.

These words are empowering to both hear and say, as they restore trust and love within your relationship


About the Author: Carissa Pluta is Spoken Bride’s Editor at Large. She is the author of the blog The Myth Retold. Read more

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Love and Sacrifice Say the Same Thing.

STEPHANIE CALIS

 

What is beautiful draws our senses to the sacred. At a recent wedding I attended, a harp, organ, and choir lifted their melodies to the heights. The groomsmen wore tailcoats; the bridesmaids, embellished gowns the color of jade. Even these breathtaking details, however, were nothing compared to the radiance of the liturgy, or the couple themselves.

After a tear-filled procession and Liturgy of the Word, the celebrant’s homily illuminated an essential truth of our vocations, one embodied in a particularly tangible way through the call to marriage: love and sacrifice say the same thing, but only to the extent that we embrace them.

“You love,” he said, “as much as you sacrifice, and you sacrifice as much as you love.”

What does this mean?

As a wedding guest, I took these words as a prayer for the couple about to become one, that they might spend their lifetime willing one another’s good and fulfillment.

On a personal level, I heard them as a call, insistent and clear: along this path, my husband’s and my pilgrimage to the eternal wedding feast, our vows merit that we love with the entirety of our hearts, even when emotion runs dry and when we’d prefer not to make the effort. That we embrace the good times and bad, knowing that in making a gift of our actions, time, and entire selves to one another, we’re free from enslavement to self-serving desires.

I often consider the link between the words integration and integrity when it comes to relationships. That is, the times when the complementary parts of who I am--body and soul, reason and emotion, and more--are well-integrated and not in conflict with each other, are the times I find myself treating my husband with the greatest sense of integrity.

These are the times when my love for him and the sacrifices I’m willing to make for him--taking on extra chores when he’s busy, respecting our budget, putting our kids to bed on the nights he has to bring work home--speak a language of wholeness and good will.

When our hearts are integrated, love and sacrifice say the same thing: I give of myself to you, I place your present wants and needs before my own, I enter into your burdens and carry them alongside you.

In the times I turn to my own selfishness, preferring personal convenience or comfort above what’s best for my marriage and family, I see our relationships being chipped away at. I see them quite literally dis-integrate.

Thanks to grace and mercy, these breaks can be restored to something like their former wholeness, and only in eternity will they be brought to perfection.

Only in eternity. The words of this wedding homily, an occasion of such heavenly rejoicing, drew my attention down to earth and to the tension we live out in our vocations. We are earthly and imperfect, yet our call is focused on eternal life; on bringing our spouses and children (biological or spiritual) to the banquet by way of love.

And how to pour out that love? Through our acts of sacrifice. Saint John Paul II said, “There is no place for selfishness and no place for fear! Do not be afraid, then, when love makes demands. Do not be afraid when love requires sacrifice.”

By praying for your spouse, by serving and assisting him without keeping score, by keeping your shared goal of each other’s fulfillment and salvation at the forefront--even when it feels too hard--you become living icons of self-emptying love, bearing Christ to the world.


About the Author: Stephanie Calis is Spoken Bride's Editor in Chief and Co-Founder. She is the author of INVITED: The Ultimate Catholic Wedding Planner (Pauline, 2016). Read more

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5 Saint Thérèse Quotes to Help You Live the “Little Way” in Marriage

What could a cloistered Carmelite nun who lived in the 1800s and died at the young age of 24 teach anyone about marriage—especially marriage in the 21st century?

If you look at marriage through a purely secular lens, as a civilly-sanctioned union between two consenting parties who share great feelings of affection—and tax benefits—then not much.

But for Christians, marriage is so much more. And through the Catholic sacrament of matrimony, two individuals become a living sacrament.

There is a spiritual reality in the spousal union that knits souls together for life, “God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother [and be joined to his wife], and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.”

There is unique marital grace that God reserves for those living the sacrament, and there is a mission given to the spouses that transcends time: help each other become the saints you are called to be. Walk with each other to Heaven. Cultivate your family as a ‘domestic church’ that overflows with life, love, grace, and Christ.

But what does marriage have to do with a young Carmelite nun?

Her name was Thérèse Martin—a young, fifteen-year-old girl who petitioned the Holy Father to enter Carmel; her plea was granted. During her remainder of her life in the French convent, Thérèse adopted a philosophy and a spirituality that reflected her own “little soul.” It was a way of simplicity, sacrifice, and, ultimately, love.

In 1997, she was officially declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II. In her much-loved autobiography, Story of a Soul, she writes, “overcome by joy, I cried, 'Jesus, my love. At last I have found my vocation. My vocation is love!’” Saint Thérèse’s spirituality, her most enduring legacy, is affectionately known as the “Little Way:” a simple and direct path to Heaven. Although written by a young nun who never married, this spirituality is a beautiful rule of life for the married home. Through her own words, we learn the little way as a guide for our own vocations to love, through the vocation to marriage.

 

“My whole strength lies in prayer and sacrifice, these are my invincible arms; they can move hearts far better than words, I know it by experience.”

Saint Thérèse’s religious life revolved around constant prayer and sacrifice, especially little daily sacrifices like cleaning dishes or helping other sisters in need (especially those she found to be the most difficult). How strong marriages would be if each spouse filled every day with tiny sacrifices and deaths to self, each offered as a little prayer of love to Jesus!

“Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice,” she admonishes. “Here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right thing and doing it all for love.”

When you begin a burdensome chore, do it joyfully; offer up the urge to complain as a small sacrifice for your beloved and for Christ. Your joyful “yes” to making the bed each morning becomes a small fulfillment of the call to your vocation of married life. Each little labor becomes a prayer. After all, “when one loves,” Saint Thérèse says, “one does not calculate.”

“I know now that true charity consists in bearing all our neighbors' defects—not being surprised at their weakness, but edified at their smallest virtues.”

Is there anything about your spouse that drives you nuts? When you attend confession, do you feel like you could do their examination of conscience for them?

“How could he leave his clothes on the floor by the bed again? Haven’t I asked him ten times not to do that?” St. Thérèse’s little way notices faults of others through a different lens. The bad habits in your spouse, and in yourself, do not change easily or quickly; that’s the nature of a habit.

When your spouse does something that annoys you, again, refrain from acting shocked. Expect a healthy amount of imperfection or inconsistency from your spouse, and reflect, instead, on even his smallest virtues.

This minor shift in perspective curbs disappointment and hurt of failed expectations. Choose joy. Choose to notice the strengths of your spouse that made you fall in love with them in the first place. There may be profound suffering in marriage, but, as Thérèse says, “It's true, I suffer a great deal—but do I suffer well? That is the question.”

“I understood that every flower created by Him is beautiful, that the brilliance of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not lessen the perfume of the violet or the sweet simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all the lowly flowers wished to be roses, nature would no longer be enamelled with lovely hues. And so it is in the world of souls, Our Lord's living garden.”

Do you ever look at another wife and wish you could be as good as her? Her beauty, her talents, her home, and even her marriage seem better than yours.

Envy destroys souls and marriages. But confident humility and gratitude for the gifts and beauty in your life destroy envy. Saint Thérèse wisely notes the perfect beauty of every person’s unique soul and vocation in God’s “living garden.”

“If a little flower could speak,” she explains, “it seems to me that it would tell us quite simply all that God has done for it, without hiding any of its gifts. It would not, under the pretext of humility, say that it was not pretty, or that it had not a sweet scent...if it knew that such were not the case.”

Make a list of all the little things that bring you gratitude about your spouse and the life you share together. Present these things with love to the Lord and praise him for crafting you as the beautiful flower you are. “Holiness (and happiness) consists simply in doing God's will, and being just what God wants us to be,” Thérèse says.

Another woman may have been created as a rose, but your life as the simple daisy adds necessary color and beauty to God’s garden.  

“God would never inspire me with desires which cannot be realized; so in spite of my littleness, I can hope to be a saint.”

In one of the most courageous sentences she ever wrote, St. Thérèse confidently hopes in her own sanctity, despite being acutely aware of her weaknesses and faults. She knows that her vocation is love, so “without love, deeds, even the most brilliant, count as nothing.” It is not always the grandeur of holy actions that make a saint, but the grandeur of love in every little action.

On your wedding day, you vowed to love your spouse “until death do us part.” Only then is your vocation complete, when you and your beloved enter eternal life as saints who helped each other through a lifetime of growing in sanctity.

In your own littleness, do not despair. Ask God for the theological virtue of hope to thrive in your marriage. Trust that your desire for sanctity in your vocation is never in vain.

In spite of your faults, in spite of the flaws of your spouse, in spite of the imperfections of your marriage, you can always, confidently, hope to become a saint. Walk the little way of simplicity, sacrifice, and love. Grow through the graces of marriage and the deep, abiding love of God—just like a little French nun who became a Doctor of the Church.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux, pray for us!

Wedding Planning | Making Traditions Meaningful

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

Like the Catholic Liturgy, wedding celebrations around the world are rich with tradition and history. Rituals become a source of nostalgia for guests who reflect on their own wedding day, they unite couples who participate in the traditions throughout time around the world. Furthermore, they enhance how the bride and groom bring unique personalization and meaningful symbolism to their ceremony and celebration.

Incorporating specific religious, cultural, or secular traditions into your wedding day is not about going through the motions for the sake of a good photograph or to appease a relative. Traditions are valuable opportunities to experience and share the sacramental nature of a wedding, involve beloved family and friends, or enter more deeply into your nuptials.

A brief selection of decisions and traditions are listed below as a catalyst to think creatively about ways to expand wedding standards in order to cultivate and share the deepest realities of your special day.

PHOTOGRAPHY:   VISUAL GRACE

PHOTOGRAPHY: VISUAL GRACE

Wedding Flowers

Besides choosing flowers in season or highlighting your color scheme, a symbolic approach to selecting flowers for your bouquet is to base the floral selection on religious symbolism. Historically, many flowers were named for Our Lady and Jesus. If you or your fiance have a special devotion to the Holy Family or a saint, you may consider honoring your devotion through your wedding flowers or a “Marian bouquet.”

Rehearsal Dinner

When many guests travel from out-of-town for a wedding, it is difficult for the bride, groom, and their families to spend adequate time with these guests. The rehearsal dinner serves an important purpose in honoring the family and friends who will serve at your wedding. But why stop there? If you are hoping to spend quality time with additional guests, expand the traditional rehearsal dinner to a meet-and-greet; invite others to join the celebration after the dinner, so guests can meet and mingle prior to the wedding day.

First Look

The First Look is a tradition with many benefits. First, it is an opportunity to shake some nerves before the ceremony. Second, as a time for prayer before meeting at the altar. Finally, it’s a perfect chance for the wedding photographer to capture special moments on camera. If the first look doesn’t feel like a good fit, brainstorm options to fit within your comfort zone. Perhaps you meet for a coffee date before everyone gets dressed, allowing time for laughs and prayers. Plan to hold hands back-to-back, as a “first touch” for a prayer and photograph before the ceremony. Determine your intention in this meeting, then consider ways to meet those goals.

Honoring Mary

In the Catholic Mass, there is generally an opportunity for the bride and groom to move to a statue of Mary to offer a prayer or a token of love. Even if you and your fiance have not had a strong devotion to Mary prior to your wedding, this is a beautiful opportunity to bring honor our spiritual mother; if you are at a loss for words to Our Lady, she will still shower you with grace on your special day. However, if you desire to make this tradition more meaningful, incorporate preparation for this tradition into your wedding planning process. For example, pray the rosary together as part of your spiritual preparation for marriage. Or work together to write a prayer to Mary and say the prayer when you visit her during your ceremony. You could also include the original prayer in your wedding program as a way to invite wedding guests to pray alongside and with you during that moment.

Significant Devotions, New Traditions

There are not many standard traditions to honor the saints in a wedding ceremony. If you and your fiance have a special devotion to one or several saints, talk to your priest about including a personalized Litany of Saints during the ceremony. When my husband and I offered the idea to our priest, he had never seen it done in a wedding, but we worked together with the music director to choose the right melody and timing--and it was a perfect addition.  

Eliminate Meaningless Norms

For me and my husband, a tradition that didn’t offer significant meaning, value, joy, or intention was the garter toss. We tried brainstorming ideas to parallel the women’s opportunity with the bouquet toss, but nothing came as a good fit. Rather than feeling obligated to partake in a wedding tradition that made us both uncomfortable, we decided to eliminate it from our reception—and no one asked any questions. If you and your fiancé find yourself at a crossroads between wedding norms and personal values, choose your values with courage and fearlessness. Your wedding day is a holy reflection of your innermost love and desire.

These topics are only the tip of the wedding-tradition-iceberg. We hope you will share your experiences with our community on Instagram or Facebook. We would love to hear: what traditions are you planning to incorporate throughout your wedding weekend? In what ways have you infused deeper meaning or symbolism into the religious, cultural, or secular traditions? How do you communicate the value and significance of a tradition with your wedding guests?


About the Author: Stephanie Fries is Spoken Bride’s Associate Editor. Stephanie’s perfect day would include 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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Sharing Your Story | Marriage as a Living Testimony

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

There is power in telling a story—especially our personal story. When we put words on our authentic, vulnerable, sometimes laughable realities, we build bonds through shared human experiences. We listen to stories of others and experience the commonality of the human heart. Sharing and listening to life stories paves a path for affirmation, inspiration, empathy, and connection.  

God offers his Church the Bible as a holy example of the power and influence in storytelling. Reading, studying and meditating on his sacred word brings us into deeper relationships with our Creator and with the longings of our heart and soul. Hearing the timelines, parables, and events of Scripture unifies individuals as they listen and learn alongside one another.

Our heavenly father has never stopped creating; he offers new stories through every human life. Our voices and our bodies are the means by which we share these stories with others—and glorify him—as the details of our lives unfold.  

PHOTOGRAPHY:   MEL WATSON PHOTOGRAPHY

As we think of our own stories, who we share them with, and how we emphasize the details, it’s important to have intention as we recall and retell memories. Simply put, the way we remember an experience affects the way we speak about it. And the way we speak affects how others feel or how they think.

Consider, then, the opportunity and responsibility of sharing the stories of our married lives.

There is, of course, a healthy boundary to vulnerability; certain experiences and conversations between spouses should stay private. Yet within the vocation to married life is a journey of love, which every human heart yearns to hear and know. How you offer these stories, to strangers and loved ones alike, has the power to make an impact on your listeners’ hearts and minds.

For example, if you recall a circumstance as challenging, disheartening, or obstructive, then the tone in your storytelling will model those emotions to the audience. On the other hand, if your memory of an experience is positive, funny, or related to personal success, your body language and tone of voice will convey those emotions. Social scientists recognize that when we desire connection with others, listeners subconsciously mimic the speaker’s body language, breathing rate, and tone of voice. Whether they know it or not, the speaker is a model of emotion and attitude.

This insight has been a catalyst for me to pay attention to my internal dialogue and to be thoughtful as I share personal stories with others. I often find myself separating stories of my marriage from stories of life circumstance. I try to comprehend and share marriage as one dimension of life, while our jobs and daily logistics are another entity. With this approach, I frequently recall the moments when these two worlds collide; I speak of these experiences with a frustrated, puzzled, and tense tone. What impact does this have on the individuals who listen to me?

Fortunately, a mentor calmed weakness to this perspective; he helped me recognize the beautiful complexity of the calling and vocation to married life. We are not only called to become a wife. Every movement of every day, every detail and circumstance is an purposeful piece of our specific vocation.

Reflecting on the gift of vocation in this all-encompassing perspective has affected the way I tell my stories. The life circumstances I once perceived as obstacles have become moments for growth and grace in my marriage. The plot twists which used to shatter plans and positivity are now recognized as God’s hand guiding our path according to his divine mystery.

With a new perspective, my body language, word choice, and tone of voice has shifted. The storytelling that once left people empathizing with my frustration has a new potential to invite others into hope as we embrace the struggles of early family life as a gift from God.

Reflect on how you tell the stories of your vocation; how do you want to make people feel as they listen to and engage with your vulnerability?

God desires to use our stories as a means for his presence in the world. As we tell a story and give glory to God, we may open someone’s eyes to recognize his hand in their own life. When we celebrate life’s challenges and obstacles as gifts to our vocation, we may give someone else permission to see their circumstances with hope, patience, or a sense of humor.

This is not about sugar-coating our stories, but about keeping our eyes on God as we recall and retell our life experiences. Marriage inevitably involves taking up a cross and abandoning our own will. Dying to self requires a surrender of pride and oftentimes involves some kind of pain. Although there are times when pain is offered as a hopeful prayer, other realities invoke an honest and raw sadness in pain. Each story deserves to be shared authentically and in truth. No matter the depth of pain and suffering, God is writing your story as his personalized gift of love to you.

When we speak about our lives, our vocation, with an authentic or gracious tone, we cultivate a strong culture of marriage; we uphold a culture that receives every experience as a gift and offers the stories of our lives as a living testimony of faith, hope, and love.


About the Author: Stephanie Fries is Spoken Bride’s Associate Editor. Stephanie’s perfect day would include 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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