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I’m not home yet

A little more than a week ago, I packed up all my earthly belongings (except those Star Wars toys my mom promised to not throw away) and moved to Catonsville to the house Casey and I will share for at least the first year of our marriage. With the help of my mother, my friend George and Casey’s family, we also moved Casey’s stuff into the house during the same weekend.

One thing that hasn’t moved in is Casey.

I’m there alone until Dec. 30, the day she becomes my wife. Sure, she comes over and we have dinner or watch a movie together, but right now it’s mostly just me in there. While I was covering the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) for The Catholic Review, Casey spent an extraordinary amount of time unpacking boxes, putting things in their proper places (which I’m still trying to figure out) and getting the house in order. All of it was preparing the house to be our home.

And, that’s the thing. While I have adjusted to living in Catonsville, it’s not home yet. The most important piece for me – Casey – isn’t there yet. All of the material goods in the world make a home fun to be around, but love fills it.  I look forward to New Year’s Eve morning, when I can look across the bed and see the face of my wife and know I get to spend every day of  my life growing with her, supporting her and loving her.

The cliché goes, “Home is where the heart is.” My heart will be full Dec. 30 and each day that comes after.

The Magic Store

My hope still is to leave the world a bit better than when I got here.
~Jim Henson

Today is the opening of the much anticipated new Muppet Movie… well, maybe not as anxiously anticipated by everyone… but when you ask this humble couple, there hasn’t been enough hoopla surrounding the return of Jim Henson’s beloved creations.

Even though we’ve been counting down to this new movie for months, Matt and I will not be able to go see it tonight on opening day — happily, we made a commitment to something far more important:  babysitting my niece.  (I’m not gonna lie — the temptation was to combine the two activities by taking this sweet not-quite-two-year-old to her very first movie… but better judgement prevails, and we’ll leave that special moment to her parents.)

Still, Matt and I cannot wait to go see this movie as soon as we get a chance together.

You see, for most of my life, I have taken pleasure in silly, quirky, and whimsical childhood affinities like the Muppets, and Disney/Pixar movies, and even those old claymation Rankin-Bass Christmas Specials. It’s great to be a youth minister for the excuse to pay attention to current attractions (I really needed to see Harry Potter’s last movie — it’s my job to be aware of youth culture)!  For me, it’s not just nostalgia for a simpler time, or childhood memories– but also rejoicing in the lasting quality of the children’s programming that transcends pop-culture into lasting legacy.  (yes, the memories do exist, and they are nostalgic… my parents did not allow very much TV to my brother or I when we were little, but they encouraged us to watch Jim Henson programming.  Evening bedtime rituals sometimes revolved around quotes like “Bathtime is over in five minutes — the Muppet Show is starting!” )  Not all cartoons and kids shows are created equal.  The creators of these shows and movies were dreamers who had more in mind for their characters than entertainment or merchandising.  These characters have heart, personality, and courage, portrayed in personalities that are timeless.  They focus on the values that build up lasting friendships, and on the work it takes to follow their dreams.  They inspire 30 year old Cassandra as much as they did 5 year old Casey.

Now for the past couple of decades, my championing of Jim Henson productions seemed like a uniquely quirky characteristic amongst my friends.  In high school/ college/ adult circles of friends, I easily became characterized as the “childlike one” because of my endearment to the value of Muppet movies, etc. so much so that one Christmas (less than five years ago, mind you), more than half of the gifts I received from friends were toys or decorations involving Rudolph characters.  That experience gave me pause, and I realized how funny it was to other adults that I took so much joy in the simple pleasures provided by these characters.  It seemed like no one else “got it”, and I felt a little foolish for so openly sharing my joy with them.  Did no one else relate to the relevance of Kermit to someone in their thirties?

And then I became friends with Matt.  Here is a man that not only relates to my theories on why Fraggle Rock deserves a whole-series collectors edition DVD set… he instigates them!  Finally, I get a glimpse of what my friends observed in me several years ago — the endearing quality of a grown adult who will shamelessly wax poetic about the deeper meanings of the song lyrics to “Rainbow Connection”.  It’s sweet.  Engaging in witty banter with Matt over the character development of Fozzie Bear totally cracks me up.  Our early friendship bonded over an appreciation of the “art form” of quality G-rated movies.  I hope that throughout our marriage, we can continue to connect over the simple joys of childlike faith and love and laughter.

Prayer of a Future Wife

Adapted from Psalm 16

Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge;

I say to the Lord, “My God are you.  Apart from you I have no good.”

 

I bless the Lord who counsels me; even in the night my heart exhorts me.

I set the Lord ever before me; with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.

Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices, my body abides in confidence.

 

You, O Lord, will show me the path to life, fullness of joys in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever.

AMEN.

A Future of Hope

Appropriately, today I stumbled upon this inspiring true story about Danny and Annie (thank you, Life Teen!), who speak to the ability to make every-day married life profound.  Totally worth 6 minutes.

Cheers,   Cassandra

 

For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the LORD—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

On November 1, we remember the lives of those who have gone before us– both the recognized saints and the unknown people who are the unsung heroes of our faith.  We have a great many role models who have shown us what it means to direct our lives toward holiness in simple and mindful ways.  By looking to the saints for inspiration, we are guided to discipleship through their every-day decisions and relationships.

We also know so many people in our lifetimes who influence and inspire us in our faith… these are the “unknown saints” who give us examples of faith, hope, and charity within real life.  They aren’t afraid to share their faith.  They teach their children about God.  They pray.  They forgive.  They personally inspire us to be better people ourselves.

Time and again, my future groom is one of those unknown saints, influencing me for the better.  Matt’s own choices of actions and words are often careful to reflect the light of Christ in unassuming ways, and he is a positive influence on his friends and family.  Through the sacrament of marriage, we can draw one another closer to heaven by encouraging lifestyles rooted in faith.  Sometimes this means admonishing, or correcting behavior that isn’t best.  Sometimes, it’s as simple as leading by example of joyful service.

For the times that he’s demonstrated patience during our wedding planning, and forgiveness when I make my own mistakes, I am filled with awe at Matt’s generous heart.  I am inspired to make my own life a reflection of the same love and generosity, and then in turn hope to strengthen his faith as well.

Happy All Saints Day!

Last year, my parish youth ministry leaders coordinated a fantastic program to teach teens about the Catholic teaching on love, relationships, and sexuality, based upon JPII’s “Theology of the Body”.
Amongst the many gems of teaching about honoring God’s creation and discerning our call and our vocation, the sessions emphasized the ideals of reflecting God’s love through our human relationships.
According to “Theology of the Body”, love and sex, within the context of sacramental matrimony, is designed by God to be a direct reflection of Christ-like love, which is Free, Total, Faithful, and Fruitful. This is my favorite component of the whole T.O.B. series, because it highlights the ways that married love (and, yes, sex) communicates God’s love to each other and to the world in both physical and emotional ways.
FREE
Jesus’s love was free: He was fully human, and with that humanity came free will. Jesus willingly entered into ministry that gave his disciples a new understanding of God’s unconditional love.
Married love is free: Matt and I have no reason to choose marriage but our love for one another. There is no outside force that is pushing this decision upon us. It is completely our free choice to become a new family.
TOTAL
Jesus’s love was total: The crucifix says it all. John 3:16. There isn’t any more complete love than the total sacrifice of your life!
Married love is total: Speaking of sacrifice… In a less literal, but equally selfless way, husbands and wives lay their lives down for one another. When I make a vow to love, honor, and cherish Matt, I am forever giving up a life of only thinking for myself. I’ll be totally invested in his well being, and that of our future children.
FAITHFUL
Jesus’s love was faithful: He never gave up on his friends, and he never gave up on God. Even during moments of despair (like in the Garden of Gethsemane) , Jesus demonstrated faith and obedience to God.
Married love is faithful: Despite occasional bad days and inevitable disagreements, husbands and wives support each other loyally. In the sacrament of matrimony, Matt and I will make vows to put each other first, to honor one another in good times and bad. From that day forward, we will be each other’s primary team and partner.
FRUITFUL
Christ’s love is fruitful: never in the history of the world has the life of one man had a greater influence on future generations. Christ’s love has taught us about how the world works, and more importantly, how God loves. Scriptures continue to guide and inspire us to fulfill the promise that “I am the vine, and you are the branches…”
Married love is fruitful: Even beyond the obvious “fruits” of married love and sex — children– marriage is fruitful in the ways that the sacrament continues to strengthen and inspire the husband and wife to live and serve within their community. The fruits of married love include the confidence we will have in sharing ourselves with our families, our friends, and our Church. Matt’s love for me gives me hope and encourages me to be my best self at home and at work … There is joy in knowing the support of my beloved. And the fruits multiply!

This is the ideal to which married couples strive. Every day, as Matt and I find new ways to love one another, we will again offer love that imitates Christ’s free and total and faithful and fruitful self-giving in every way.

First Things First

Back in 2003, when I was graduating from Mount Saint Mary’s College and applying for parish youth ministry jobs, I had to put a lot of thought and prayer into my decision to be a youth minister.  This job would mean that I get to follow my dream and serve the community in inspiring and fulfilling ways.  I would have the opportunity to promote positive influences to teenagers.  I would be able to teach young people about faith, and about what it means to live as a disciple of Christ.  I would get paid to eat ice cream and pizza …  a LOT of pizza!

But the flip side of that coin was that in order to be a good resource to teens and families in a Church community, I would be putting in many hours working on weekends and weeknights.  I would have flexible time during the week (I make my own hours, more or less), but would be required to be available at the times that everyone else is “off”.  This was no 9 to 5.

The toughest part of my ministry schedule is that there are so many times that family gatherings become sacrificed.  People normally plan backyard barbeques and birthday parties and movie marathons on the WEEKENDS, and depending upon what’s on the parish youth ministry schedule, it could present a tough choice of priorities for me.

sharing an evening at Camden Yards with Matt "at work". Not really. Well, maybe a little bit.

Matt’s work schedule is a little more structured (unlike me, he does have enforced office hours Monday through Friday), but even still, he often has reporting assignments that take place  during the evening and weekend hours.  I think that for him, it is even tougher to manage because at least in my case, I can comp my own time by taking a random morning off or work from home, but he has more pressure to have articles ready for printing deadlines.  Additionally, Matt has a second job (part time), covering the Orioles for PressBox Online, in which he blogs regular reports for their website.  During the baseball season, he attends home games at Camden Yards and interviews players, coaches, and managers … it makes for some very late worknights for him as well!

Matt and I began to learn about balancing schedules as soon as we began dating.  Sometimes my work week was flexible and provided opportunities for spontaneity on a weekday afternoon.  Sometimes, when the retreat season is busy, we’d go for days on end without seeing each other.  Early on, we began to realize how important it would be for us to prioritize one another with our time management.  It was easy to do, though, because we so enjoy time together!  It’s most challenging when our respective schedules pull us in opposite directions, so that we can’t find ways to synchronize our time off to spend together…  Thankfully, those seasons are few.

One thing I’ve kept in mind is that no matter how fun and exciting (or busy and stressful, depending upon the day) work may be, it is so important that we always make room in the busy schedule to have quality time with one another.  On the weeks that I go days and days with late nights in meetings and weekends away with teens on retreat, I don’t feel complete until I see Matt again.  I’m lucky that he, too, prioritizes time with me– especially when the calendar fills up with appointments and assignments.  Sometimes, I have to pray that God will multiply our time and provide us with unexpected ways to bond over shared activities.  Our time together energizes and inspires me, and his presence reminds me of the person I strive to be.

Looking forward to our marriage, we get to look forward to finally coming home to each other every day.  Even on the stressful days with early mornings or late nights, I will have a guaranteed chance to talk face to face when we wake up and a kiss goodnight at the end of the day.   Today, we settled on the home that we will make our own — our first home together as newlyweds!  It is exciting to be able to visualize the space in which I will, for the first time, come home to dinner with my husband in January.  Ahh — so soon!  We’re counting down the days…

Love, Cassandra