(Doesn’t Sept. 22 just sound like one of the loveliest possible dates for a wedding? It really was, too! It was fortunate, as well, that it fell on an OSU bye weekend.)
We snacked over herbed boursin cheese and crostini, chatting — at first — about Sweet Potato, whom we’d left with Lolo and Boppa for her first solo stay overnight.
“She really is just the sweetest,” the Oilman said, to which I replied that my mom had just texted me with an update. Sweet Potato was — at that very instant — happily munching steamed broccoli and carrots!
Later, though, as we dined on steak, lamb, fried okra and spicy macaroni and cheese, our conversation stretched and lengthened. Omitting the obvious highlights (the day we met, the day we married, the day we first discovered we were pregnant, etc., etc.), we shortlisted our favorite — or at least most poignant — memories from the past four years: Storming the field when OSU won Bedlam in 2011; one particularly crazy day at the lake; an unexpected adventure with my parents in Munjor, Kan., after a joyous celebration of the 50th wedding anniversary of my aunt and uncle; weathering the terrifying tornado of May 2013 in the basement of the Devon Tower before braving the drive home through an eerie evening flood; the little party after Sweet Potato’s baptism, as well as her first birthday; and a recent beach trip, made all the more delightful by Sweet Potato’s happy exploration of the surf and sand.
By the time we savored our cheesecake, the dialogue shifted to the future, to questions about whether we’ll find it a greater challenge to parent boys or girls, to fears about how familial relationships will change as our children grow and eventually venture from home, to good-natured predictions about the lives of our beloved friends and family.
Truth be told, I’ve always scoffed at the idea of a standing “date night” between husband and wife. The idea seemed a little tired and worn to me. To adopt it, I thought, would be to suggest that ordinary evenings at home have somehow lost a bit of their charm when, in fact, they haven’t. On Friday night, though, I realized — or remembered — the worth of an intentional evening. Sure, making a reservation, arranging a babysitter, donning a festive dress and devoting your attention exclusively to your husband doesn’t guarantee a good time or a meaningful conversation — but it increases the odds!
It all made me recall a quote I’ve long loved from the poet Jacques Crickillon: “You are the bread and the knife, / The crystal goblet and the wine.”
Of course, the evening out did call for a festive dress, and, fortunately, I’d found this one through a consignment group on Facebook. For the evening, I accessorized it with a sparkly silver clutch (a bridesmaid favor from the wedding at which the Oilman and I met!) and black heels (premier castoffs from my mom!).
This morning, I recycled the dress for Mass, so it’s also my #WhatIWoreSunday ensemble. To render it more appropriate for the daytime, I paired it with an ecru sweater, a brown snakeskin purse and caramel pumps.
During the Liturgy of the Word, I discovered this Sunday was yet another anniversary: The recurrence of our wedding readings. Because our wedding ceremony occurred on a late Saturday evening, we opted to use the Sunday readings for the week so our guests could fulfill their Sunday obligation by attending our wedding.
What a gift is the universal lectionary! Its ever-changing, ever-constant rotation of readings offers listeners an unparalleled opportunity to deepen their understanding of Scripture, as various readings come to apply to layer upon layer of life experiences.
Three years ago, I heard James’ exhortation to avoid “jealousy and selfish ambition” and to be “pure, peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity” as a wide-eyed, naively confident bride determined to found a home on Him, a home of order and love. I would be all of those things, all of the time! I was sure of it.
This year, I heard it and felt immediately convicted by it. How often in the past three years have I nursed jealousy of those wives and mothers who seem to never tire, whose indefatigable energy enables them to actually accomplish what I only just imagine! How often in the past three years have I stoked selfish ambition, coveting time to myself, daydreaming about what I could do with a little bit more of this or a little bit more of that!
Three years ago, I heard Jesus warmly endorse the welcome of a child — “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me” — and thought I knew what it meant to be open to life. Since then, though, the Oilman and I have learned so much more about the Church’s teaching on marital ethics (it’s not just avoiding contraception!) and, to my enduring relief and gratitude, we’ve grown in our faithfulness to those teachings. The fruit of it? Our beloved, much-longed-for Sweet Potato and precious, unexpected-but-oh-so-welcome Mint Julep.
So it goes in the spiritual life: We regress in some ways and progress in others. In God, though, there is no darkness at all. Fortunately, if we give ourselves over to Him completely, He will, little by little, transform our darkness into light. How comforting to know that the grace of Confession awaits us always!
“If we acknowledge our sins, He is trustworthy and upright, so that He will forgive our sins and will cleanse us from all evil.” — 1 John 1:9
Here’s hoping three years from now finds us sitting in the pew at Mass with an even greater understanding of these Scriptures, with just a smidgen more spiritual maturity than we have at this moment!