“All beautiful you are, my darling; there is no flaw in you”

Song of Songs 4:7.

 . . . Wrapped in the warmth of his personhood, I nestled safely tucked within his side. No tinges of pain nor worries of tomorrow crept into our sanctuary. Contentment filled the void of worry. After years of familiarity, silence echoed instead of words. Calmness ensued. The art of being came easily. The art of being came naturally.

Within our sanctuary aglow crept in the worries of tomorrow and the pains of today. A tinge followed by a twinge shattered our calm moment. Within breaths all changed except the loved we shared. That instead grew more by each aching and uncertain breath. Tested yet purified by fire love emerges brighter and stronger.  . .

Choice. A strong word with many connotations. But our choices and the choices of other dictate our lives, the direction of our lives, and the relationships in our lives. Many love quotes and verses mirror the sentiment of choice: “I choose you.” “I choose us.” & “Two imperfect people that choose each other.” etc. Love within intimate relationships constitutes a choice- a daily choice to choose each other and the other over selfishness and selfish desires. Narcissism is rampant in Western culture.

Suffering. Another strong word with many connotations. But how we suffer and how we suffer with dictates our lives, the direction of our lives, and the relationships in our lives. Compatibility derives from the Latin phrase “to suffer with.” Compatible means to “Suffer with.” If we are unable to suffer with another, we aren’t compatible. Love within intimate relationships requires compatibility- a daily choice to suffer well and suffer with another.

Beauty. Another strong word with many connotations. But what we recognize as beauty dictates our lives, the direction of our lives, and the relationships in our lives. Do we value earthly beauty or heavenly beauty? The beauty of spirit or of the body? Beauty resides within each person regardless of form or function. Beauty within an intimate relationship requires constant pursuit of virtue and maturation of ideals which must uphold each person’s intrinsic dignity.

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Photo Credit: Isaiah Eyre Photography

Choice. Suffering. Beauty. . .  The story above recalls an incident when we chose each other, suffered with each other, and recognized the beauty within each other. Our peaceful movie night turned into mind-blowing pain and frightful concern. I now know the endometriosis plus other factors caused the incident. This wasn’t the first time an incident like this occurred but the severity was unparalleled. Would I have preferred a calm, unhindered movie night that didn’t end with keeling over in pain while he opened windows, brought water and pain meds, and prayed while holding my hand? Yes. But instead we experienced an opportunity for growth.

In my moment of weakness and vulnerability as a human and as a woman, I asked three question.

Did he choose me in that moment? Yes.

Did he suffer with me in that moment? Yes.

Did he reaffirm my beauty as a woman, God’s creation? Yes.

 

 

 

“And, I pray thee now, tell me, for which of my bad parts did thou first fall in love with me?”

This exerpt comes from Much Ado About Nothing, Act VI, Scene II which means more than a witty Shakespearean comedy but a former dramatic production I participated in as a high school sophomore. The dialogue is an exerpt from the humorous and witty banter between eventual lovers Senor Benedict and Lady Beatrice. Unlikely yet likely lovers engaged in a battle of wit and avoidance of each other until both fall hopeflessfly in love.

But an exploration into the merits of Shakespearean comedy and the two protagonists aren’t my goal. I’m focusing on the actual line, ” And, I pray thee now, tell me, for which of my bad parts did thou first fall in love with me?” This line transported me to other scenes within my own life. We all have our good qualities and less than admirable qualities all of which enter into a dating relationship. I’m not advocating for tolerance of bad behavior nor avoidance of growth and maturation beyond bad behavior and poor character. Virtue should be pursued both individuals.

Most romantic comedies don’t highlight the nitty, gritty less than cinematically pleasing moments of an ordinary yet extraordinary love story that makes a lifetime not a fleeting screen moment. When I recollected Shakespeare’s line about loving all your bad parts, I didn’t mean you or I are bad, but those aspects of ourselves that illuminate our weakness, fragility, and mortality. The aspects of ourselves we keep private and hidden either to protect ourselves from harm or out of embarrassment. But when you enter into an intimate relationship, at some point in time, the cat is out of the bag. Then both individuals are faced with a choice to flee or not. To choose each other or not.

Obviously, the title of my blog is Chronically Catholic for various reasons one highlighting young adult life with chronic illness. To the outside world, I’m a vivacious, healthy, accomplished, and somewhat fearsome sight to behold and interact with. Yes, I am all that, but the wold rarely witnesses the me behind closed doors. When a man witnesses the me behind closed doors, he must choose to stay or flee. Most have fled for various reasons, and it’s just as well for their sake and mine.

Yes, he must chose me not only at the height of my glory and prestige but at the height of my suffering and weakness. He must chose me in my moments of intellectual greatness and my moments of intellectual demise. Either we both choose to fall to our knees together in moments of struggle or we chose to turn inward and cower.  You can’t peiecemeal a person. You can try certainly but the end result is less than helpful or lasting. Relationships challenge and define aspects of a person. Do you fight or flee? Choose or abuse?  Suffer with or suffer without? Love all or love some? Take the narrow road or not? Am I a tool or a person?

 

 

 

Musings on a Bronte Love Story . . .

My relationships tend to mirror the ethereal and tumultuous love of story Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester versus the formal and idealized love story of Miss Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. Though both men look dashing briskly and thoughtfully traipsing through the misty moors with the appropriate amount of masculine chest hair peeking through their slightly unbuttoned shirts, the ever elegant Mr. Darcy traipses elsewhere leaving behind the wounded and troubled yet fiery, passionate Mr. Rochester seeking respite from life’s experience and misery. Before him, he witnesses an angel drawing the moth to the enduring flame of purity and virtue. For the angel he desperately pursues to restore and revive him after years of decay, misery, and hopelessness, a passionate and intriguing web of convoluted intentions awaits testing her moral fiber and threaten to clip her angelic wings. After months of hardship, loss, and suffering and once the proud and mighty crumple to their knees do the angel and scoundrel enjoin in a lifelong relationship beyond literary description.

Jane Eyre

I’m still unfamiliar with the happy ending part. Pride reigns as the supreme unwavering and staunch victor where the protagonists choose themselves and their personal or influencing expectations over one another. I consider myself unusually blessed when a relationship mirrors a Gothic British literature novel like Jane Eyre versus Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations or Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. I’ve been in relationships with a Pip, Estella, Catherine, or Heathcliff: calculated, manipulative, fickle, and selfish. I cringe when watching my Jane Eyre crumble into a Great Expectations.

At the end of the day, I’m a hopeless romantic. I’ve concluded we need more Mr. John Thorntons and Gilbert Blythes and Reepicheeps and Samwise Gamgees. These complex, yet simple male characters embody a certain heroic virtue, kindness, loyalty, and compassion who uphold goodness and defy everyday and extraordinary evil. These are worthy gentlemen (fine, one is technically a mouse.)

Jane Austen’s female characters can speak in petty, witty, and gossipy cringe worthy tones. Jane Eyre embodies simplicity and goodness despite adversity plus a sincere and authentic tone. The relationship of Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester speaks to me. I identify with it. I understand the bewildering and passionate nature of their relationship, the continued devotion beyond all odds, the inability to waver on virtue and personal ideals, and the constant hope beyond reasonable hope.

 

Catholic Romance Stories . . . Christmas

Our First Christmas Gift Exchange:

christmas-mother-teresa-of-calcuttaTwas the Night of New Years and all through the house three creatures were stirring including the cat. The tree gleamed bright and cast whimsical colors and shapes on the walls and the windows. With my family snug in their beds an earshot away, only he and I remained in the soft Christmas tree glow while the cat never ceased staring in her watchful vigilance. All prepared and excited my festive wrapped gift lay upon the coffee table alone. No gift joined it’s side. I stared in astonishment and wonder. My mind buzzed and blew with more thoughts than Christmas ornaments. With each moment my brow furrowed and lines etched my face like stringed lights on the tree or lines on a stocking. My thoughts mirrored twinkling light colors all fuzzy and bright. Still no gift appeared and my heart lept in fright. Despite being seated by my side, I strained as his words floated in and out one-side. I heard. I processed. But it all seemed too bizarre. The words seemed too light and the meaning too dense like snow in a blizzard one moment fluffy and the next moment sleet. Bracing for a gift packed like a wet snowball, I quietly closed my eyes. The Christmas light glow matched my thoughts. Breathless I awaited.rings

Some rustle and bustle. A pause. A disclaimer. My breathe became frosty and slow. As I opened both palms to receive the gift, my brain turned to meringue while my hands trembled like tinsel. The cat kept her perpetual gaze while I stood frozen awaiting. A coolness brushed my palm and settled for landing. Daring to open my eyes, I peeped down. My thoughts exploded into fireworks while my vision turned into sparkling cider. Little bubbles floated up and up and up. Everything suddenly stopped. All fireworks and cider bubbles screeched to a halt. Numbness settled in and the void of pure silence settled. He waited for a response. A noise. A sign. A reaction. Anything.

A warm glow washed over me like candlelight Christmas Mass. The lights refocused as I peered below and sighed.

A ring box peered upwards while my gaze focused ever more sharply as the ivory coating glinted in the low light. Opening the box, my muscles eased. A warm, serene calmness flushed over me replacing the frigid tinged of panic.

To be continued . . .

Faith Should Be A Love Affair

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“Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.” G.K. Chesterton

After talking to my beloved I said:

Religion should be a love affair. Faith should be a love affair. We all desire love, but most of us are afraid of the greatest love and love affair we could ever experience. A love that demands all but gives all too. How many times a day do you and I verbalize our love? How many times do we tell Jesus we love him?

Deep in my heart, I know I don’t tell Jesus I love him enough. To a degree falling in love with my Faith is disconcerting. Do I dare give all to gain all? Some days yes and other days no. Usually during the blossoming stages of a serious, intimate relationship or even a mature intimate relationship, you express affection and love in various unabashed manners. What if our faith was more like our love affairs? Well, minus the sinful and ungodly tendencies.

Wisdom comes from an understanding and acceptance of the metaphysical intangibles, i.e., the undefinable and not quantifiable yet concrete truths surrounding us. What is the metaphysical? Meta and physical- beyond the physical. . . love, truth, beauty and faith to name a few. Faith isn’t just a theory filled with facts and figures, but a love affair. Sure religion is comprised of certain standards and divine inspiration/guidance, but at the heart exists a love affair.

Like a simple forehead kiss that sends tingles to your toes, faith should too. Instead of wooing the fake counterfeits present everywhere, why don’t we woo Jesus? A love affair doesn’t mean that all feelings and emotions will evoke rainbows, butterflies, and happy-go-lucky feelings. No, a real love affair withstands the test of time, the bleak and dark feelings and emotions, and the strain of sin while focusing on a profound and lasting joy and life eternal.

Medical Zebras

Today I read an article on BBC News about a young woman who competes in Beauty Pageants with a rare genetic connective tissue condition known as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS). An article highlighting a beauty queen with a 25 inch scar down her fused spine was worth a read. This young woman, Victoria Graham, started a charitable organization called “The Medical Zebra Network.” Why?

She explains the network’s name: “In medical school, doctors are trained to think of the common thing when diagnosing through the phrase, ‘When you hear hoofbeats, think of horses not zebras.'”So if a kid has runny nose or a cough they most likely have a cold rather than a rare form of cancer. But those rare things do happen and are often called ‘medical zebras’.

“So we say, ‘Think zebras, because zebras do exist’.”- BBC NEWS

I looked up the authenticity of the history lesson. BBC and she are correct. This was a medical school metaphor. The picture under this portion of the article shows her flexing her bicep with a hefty pick line inserted into her arm. I smiled. For those who don’t know what a pick line is think an IV but an internal IV threaded into your artery, usually with the entry point in your bicep area. This allows direct intravenous access to your artery.

Victoria transferred colleges hoping to find a program that exercised better flexibility and understanding around her medical treatment. She discussed the sad reality of loosing friends “Maybe my illness is something they can’t deal with or put up with,” she says. “I don’t know what the reason is,” or “She also describes having relationships with boyfriends suffer.” God bless she and her family as they navigate the ups and downs of their unique condition.

My best friends and I joke about how doctors should always start with the most bizarre and unlikely diagnosis and work their way down. We aren’t a medical horse diagnosis kind of family but a medical zebra kind of family. Medical Zebras tend to be great people but intimidating too. These people deal daily, hour by hour, with the reality most people avoid daily, hour by hour . . . mortality and suffering.

Like Victoria I have lost friends or acquaintances that couldn’t “deal with” or “put up” with my conditions or treatments. When you’re dealing with intense physical suffering, the emotional and mental slap of having “friends” bail adds that much more to everything. It hurts like heck, but I learned it’s less about myself and more about them. In the end, the situation becomes an opportunity for practicing intense forgiveness and healthy boundaries.

Like Victoria and others with unique medical challenges, my intimate relationships with boyfriends and male interests have “suffered.” There are NO words to describe the experience of having a practicing Catholic Christian man essentially abusing you because of their personal extreme selfishness and issues while blaming your health situation. May God have mercy on their souls. I now look at these moments as divine mercy, but at the time and even now the pain still twinges. I pray that these “practicing Catholic Christian men” who attend conferences and rallies but cringe at the site of suffering will eventually learn to love their families and children as Christ loved the Church by laying down his life. I hope they don’t abandon ship when times get tough, but instead when times get tough the tough get going.

In the meantime between doctors appointments and treatments, medical zebras oddly have a better grasp on joy than most “healthy” people. Yes, most extraordinary circumstances whether health related or not thins out the herd of friends and loved ones. The Trinity, Mother Mary, and the heavenly host never leaves your side but draw even closer in your most trying moments. Yes, people do need to understand how sick or ill a person can be without the symptoms or visuals being obvious.

For example, a former close friend now acquaintance of mine heard through a mutual friend I was on crutches. A debate ensued if my injury was legitimate. A few days later I showed up to a choir concert on crutches and wearing tennis shoes with my dress. My former friend goes, “You really are injured. So and So said you were but I didn’t believe him.” I responded, “Do I need to show up in a body cast for you to believe me?”

Enough said for now . . .

 

February is Catholic Romance Month

What does a Catholic romance look, feel, and act like? Does it differ from other Christian relationships? Do our heartfelt relationships follow swoon worthy scripts of the popular romantic comedy? The Notebook? P.S. I Love You? Or do our “rigid” moral teachings, practices, and beliefs squelch the passion and pleasure of erotic love?

Catholic romances are individually written by God and the brokenness of each couples humanity. Despite the taint of original sin, our love stories are filled with a passion and fire beyond the popular romantic comedy or epic romantic fail like the 50 Shades of Grey or Twilight series. Our love stories, as any Christian love story should, mirror the wood of the manager that leads to the wood of the Cross.

But our love stories are worth a laugh. A song. A dance. A prayer. Even tears. I can think of many moments between my friends and I that are more than romantic comedy worthy. So I decided to share a few.

There is a special man in my life. . . . Not a shocking catchy first line. Nonetheless, the sentiment in very true. I do have a special man in my life. During the course of a close friend’s wedding weekend, I spent quality time with the above mentioned individual.

Here are a few first memories. I present the art of subtle, good clean flirtation:

  1. “Are you going to join us? . . . ” When followed by a muffled response expressing he wasn’t joining us on the carousal ride, my benevolent invitation seemed to fall on deaf ears. I entered the carousal ride carefree and indifferent but puzzled.

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    Are You Going to Join Us? Photo Credit: Isaiah Eyre Photography
  2. “That’s more like luv not love.” I stared with a quizzical befuddled expression on my face. Internally I was thinking, “Only my family and I talk like that. On occasions my friends. Who is this guy?” Who in my general peer group actually knows how to delineate between luv the hokey superficial version of love rampid everywhere versus the real deal, authentic expression of Christ-like love.
  3. By the rehearsal dinner Saturday night, I recognized there was something different going on. I felt a perpetual gaze and adorable smile penetrating the back of my head all dinner. Every time I turned around to address the bride and groom at the table behind me, smiles and light blushes met my gaze.
  4.  Scandal!!!! I’m alone in a bedroom with a handsome man yelling nonsense. He had no idea. This occurred the morning of the wedding while the bride and bridal party prepared before the pictures and ceremony. Being the made of honor, I took my job very seriously. Time arrived for the bride to don her wedding dress. I marched into the master bedroom and yelled, “WHY ARE THE LIGHTS OFF & DOOR CLOSED?” I honestly thought a fuse had blown in her 1940s ranch. On the opposite side of the master bed, a lone photographer quietly crouched on the floor snapping pictures of her bridal gown hung on the closet door while I yelled.  Looking over, I blushed bright red embarrassed and mortified. I promptly marched out of the room and shut the door.
  5. I may have aggressively competed with another member of the bridal party for the bouquet toss. The whole scenario was in-jest.  I didn’t care that much about catching the bridal bouquet which I did not catch. The entire incident is captured in beautiful and vivid detail. This includes a picture of me going “missed it by that much!” When I looked up, a bright blushing face and smile met my gaze. Our eyes met and I blushed bright red too.