11-8-16, Married for Two Years Today

Married for two years today.
This morning you woke up before me, made coffee and got ready.
Just in time to snuggle back in bed, baby in the middle as he wiggled and stretched and grew before our eyes.
You ate your Honey Nut Cheerios while I did my first breathing treatment of the day. We watched the morning news and agreed to try not to be anxious about Election Day.
While I got ready, you got the sleepy baby prepped for our day: cheered him through his medicine-taking, talking him through a diaper change, buckled him safely and happily into his seat. Simon and I left in time, with my warm coffee in hand and a few extra kisses in the driveway of our new-to-us home.
We will spend the day apart, each working, but looking forward to our dinner in PJs tonight and undoubtedly staying up late to watch our favorite candidate become president. Hopefully with a glass of wine.
We will wake up tomorrow again, snuggles and laundry and work and appointments.

This is the love of our marriage.
Stable, imperfect, self-giving.
In the scope of it all, still new.
We are growing together, with the help of people who love us so well.
We have done much, at times overwhelmingly too much in our short time together: married, moved to a new state, 2 new jobs, left one job, started grad school, high-risk pregnancy, beautiful baby, new house. So much changes, yet we cling to the same rock together.
We laugh along the way and we cry and we fight, too. But in the end, we love each other better for it. We challenge one another to be more authentically ourselves.
That is the love that I need in my life.
This is the love that will get me to Heaven.

-Gillian

*Late addition: Hillary lost that night and we both were very sad 😦 

Walking on Holy Ground

Each situation can be blessed with grace. Each struggle can be battled with hope. And each journey, with its winding roads, is a place where we can encounter the living God.

A couple months ago, I started volunteering with my wife and a co-worker and his wife at a local ministry for those who are homeless or down on their luck called Jesus Cares at Exit 0.

The ministry, located in Jeffersonville, Indiana, somewhere close to exit 0 on I-65 (hence the name) began about six years ago by Paul Stensrud, a local resident, and his family.

It really is a remarkable ministry. Paul has done much to improve the lives of the local homeless and works tirelessly with community leaders to address issues facing this community. Paul says this ministry is much more than passing out food for them to eat – and nothing could be truer.

He provides showers, he registers individuals for healthcare and food stamps, he helps find jobs, he is a teacher of the faith and, most importantly, he is a dear friend of those who really need one.

His story is one that should be told often. He saw a need and took drastic steps to address it. Even if this need brought him to places many of us will never go.

Wherever we walk, we walk on holy ground.

May is a special month. There is Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, National Teacher’s Day, Cinco de Mayo and, of course, National Roast Leg of Lamb Day (May 7, in case you were curious). But most important and relevant to me, even though I deeply appreciate a good leg of lamb, is the fact that May is Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Month.

Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is a genetic disease that severely affects the lungs and digestive system. There is no cure and about 70,000 people worldwide battle it each day.  I walk with someone each day that has this disease. She is smart, funny, strong and immensely courageous. She is my wife, Gillian.

There is so much to say about her courageous battle. There are endless stories about hospital stays, drug studies, hours of treatments, and of the many unique people met along the way – even George W. Bush, the 43rdpresident of the United States.

Her story is a truly beautiful one. It is a story of a thousand little moments of strength, sacrifice, smiles and hope. Her every day is a day filled with medicines and treatments that help her live another day. Yet they are filled with moments that give witness to the power of faith, hope and an enduring commitment to living each day with purpose.

Wherever we walk, we walk on holy ground.

The above phrase is a reflection by one of my favorite writers, Fr. James Martin, SJ. They moved me the first time I read them and continue to do so each time I reflect on their meaning.

I am immediately taken to the story about the journey to Emmaus in the Gospel of Luke. Two disciples distraught from the loss of who they believed was a king, journey away from the eternal city of Jerusalem down a hill to the small town of Emmaus. Jesus appears to them on the way and talks with them, revealing to them the great mystery of His life, His death and, soon after He breaks bread with them, His resurrection.

Life can sometimes be like the road to Emmaus, full of winding journeys and disparaging situations. It is also full of people filled with hope and on fire for the work of God, just as the disciples were when they ran back to Jerusalem after their eyes were opened at the breaking of the bread.

Really, the story of Emmaus is a story about who we are as people on the journey of faith.

Each situation can be blessed with grace. Each struggle can be battled with hope. And each journey, with its winding roads, is a place where we can encounter the living God.

For wherever we walk, we walk on holy ground.

-Christian

This was originally published on Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology’s blog Echoes from the Bell Tower on May 21, 2015

Preparing to Entertain Angels

Out of the three that will be read, this one is my favorite. It teaches timeless lessons that are learned over and over throughout the course of life. In some ways, it is the first reminder to a lifetime of reminders that God is in those whom we encounter every day and that no matter what may come our way, the Lord is our helper and we should never be afraid.

For over a year now, I have been on a journey with my soon-to-be wife planning our wedding Mass and celebration. Although it has been a complete joy picking out the colors of the table linens, taste-testing the food we are to eat, stressing over the difference between white and ivory, and wondering if our bank accounts will ever be big enough to handle the onslaught of overpriced wedding services, my favorite part of planning has, without a doubt, been choosing the readings that will be proclaimed at our wedding Mass.

The second reading we chose, from the Letter to the Hebrews, reads: “Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect hospitality for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.” Further down, the reading continues, “Let your life be free from love of money but be content with what you have, for he has said, I will never forsake or abandon you. Thus we may say with confidence: The Lord is my helper, and I will not be afraid.” (Hebrews 13:1-4a, 5-6b)

Out of the three that will be read, this one is my favorite. It teaches timeless lessons that are learned over and over throughout the course of life. In some ways, it is the first reminder to a lifetime of reminders that God is in those whom we encounter every day and that no matter what may come our way, the Lord is our helper and we should never be afraid.

Marriage is a frightening prospect in many ways. First and foremost, when you say your vows you are the most vulnerable you have ever been and will ever be. With all the faith, trust and hope in your heart, you vow to the one you love before God that you will treasure them all the days of your life no matter the trials or tribulations that may come your way.

It is a timeless commitment and one that binds your heart to another. It is a commitment that almost demands courage, fearlessness, and blind trust in the Providence of the One who proclaims, “I will never forsake or abandon you.”

But as Paul’s letter tells us, we should never be afraid to take courage and to trust in the Providence of God, for it is His love that helps us overcome any trial or tribulation. It is the love of God that helps us be content with the many gifts given and not wish away our life on things that blow away with the wind. It is God who is our firm foundation, the foundation that allows us to embrace the type of radical vulnerability it takes to wake up every day and renew the vows you took to cherish the one to whom you’ve committed your life.

Paul teaches all of us that the vows said on the day of your marriage do not bind but free us from fear, worry, distress, anxiety and all of the evils that plague us when we fail to remember the Lord is our helper. The vows free us to love one another fully, openly and without abandon.

They allow us, and challenge us, to never neglect the greatest gift and blessing of all time: the gift that He gave, and continues to give each time we celebrate Eucharist. The gift of His only Son, sent to sacrifice Himself so that we might have life. Incarnate in the flesh, God made Himself in human form and likeness so that we know in His nearness and unfailing love that we will never be abandoned and never be forsaken.

It is in that truth that I take courage and that I boldly proclaim to love and cherish another for the rest of my days. It is from that commitment that I am challenged to open my door to angels and to never be afraid.

-Christian

This was originally published on Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology’s blog, Echoes from the Bell Tower on November 6, 2014.