Faith

On hurting abominably, undercurrents of joy, and thriving (Audio)

by Hallie @ Moxie Wife on September 25, 2014

On Monday morning I had the pleasure of sharing some of my thoughts on thriving with the women of St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Houston, Texas. I had the best time. Everyone was as kind and hospitable as can be and I got to spend the afternoon with sweet Cate! It was such a treat.

Because I’m super technical (haha) I somehow managed to record the talk on my iPhone. You’re welcome to listen below or you can right-click this link and choose “Save As” to download the MP3 file to your computer.

 

Take care, sweet peas!

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Sex Advice: Lead Us Not Into Google

by Hallie @ Moxie Wife on July 2, 2014

My finger hovered over the “publish” button. I drew a shaky breath. For months I’d been thinking about publishing this ebook but kept asking myself, “Do you really want to be ‘that Catholic woman who published a book about great sex‘?”

Three years ago, while we were working on Style, Sex, and Substance, contributing writer Elizabeth Duffy sent a questionnaire to hundreds of Catholic women asking them about their sex lives: Were they satisfied? With what issues did they most struggle? And their husbands? Were they content? Was there tension?

I was taken aback and saddened to see just how many women reported being dissatisfied with the sexual-love aspect of their marriage. Inspired and informed by the feedback she received, Elizabeth wrote an excellent chapter on the topic for our book.

After the book released, I started receiving emails from women about their intimate lives and the struggles they faced. At best, they said, sex wasn’t fun. At worst, it was a source of enormous marital tension…

To read more, just head over to Patheos where I have the pleasure and privilege of guest posting this week!

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I’m the Lobster

by Hallie @ Moxie Wife on April 28, 2014

Do you know who doesn’t win at blogging?

This girl.

You don’t even know how in awe I am of all of you who, amidst the craziness of daily life, still manage to visit your beautiful virtual homes away from home to share your hearts. I smile each time you post your wonderful updates and between scrubbing the pots and the pans, I read your words.

When I can, I try to dash off a comment but I have this weird problem where I want to say just the right thing. I want to perfectly convey to you just how much you inspire me. You girls are responsible for at least 50% of my joy each day. But when the right words prove elusive (thank you Charlie-no-sleep), I usually just close my laptop in frustration and return to the suds.

 

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I think maybe I’m just not good at online communication (which is why I am so excited about meeting so many of you in person at Edel!). I wish I was. Sometimes I’m envious of the sweet bonds so many of you have formed, and I worry that I’m failing to offer the same loving kindness (I know I am) but I do hope you know that I think the world of all of you. I just have a social media anti-charism. When things get chaotic on the home front, Moxie Wife collects dust. Basically I fail at Blogging with Discipline 101. Can you even imagine how neglected she would be without Five Favorites?!?

This winter was challenging. We were visited by Scarlet Fever, a stomach flu, and more everyday colds than I care to count. There was a tragic death in the family. I took multiple solo-parent trips by air which, though I love traveling, aren’t terribly relaxing with an infant in arms. Oh, and that infant in arms? I don’t know if I mentioned this (okay, I did), but he never slept.

It’s tempting to look back on this past winter, shake my fist, and say “Good riddance to bad rubbish!” I mean, it was seriously brutal at times. But as crazy as it may sound, and as happy as I am to welcome the reprieve of springtime, when I look back upon the last few months I’m filled with silly joy and overflowing gratitude.

Not because I’m a “so-holy*I-love-suffering*bring-on-the-pain” kind of gal (hahaha), but because this winter was revealing. In a good way. Now that I’m standing on the outskirts of that difficult season, I can look back at our experience, consider the way we handled the challenges we faced, and I can see all sorts of fruit. Delicious, life-giving fruit that’s been ripening for years.

Those fruits like to hide, don’t they? When you’re struggling mightily — arguing with your spouse, barking at your children, rolling your eyes at perfect strangers, (stubbing your toe and cursing the door jam, anyone?) — it can all feel so pointless.

 

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I can’t tell you how many times I have thought, “This would be such a great opportunity for sanctification if only I’d lean in to it a bit.”

The other day it hit me that I’m kind of like a lobster in a lobster pot.

At first, the steam feels kind of nice. “Thank you, Lord, for all these little crosses! I feel the goodness of your mercy! Your wish is my command!”

But then he turns up the heat a little and I’m all, “Stop, stop!!! You’re killing me! I’m dyiiiiing!”

And I do die, just like the lobster. Only there’s that small Resurrection thing that we human gets to take advantage of so, after all the dying (to self), I’m brought back to life!

Perhaps fittingly, it being Easter and all, I can see all this so clearly right now.

As he sometimes does, God has lifted the lid of the lobster pot a bit. The sun is shining through and he is saying, “Do you see now? Do you see how all of the pain and suffering has made you more tender? I didn’t need you to lean in. I just needed you to stay in the pot. And you did. (Albeit with a bit more thrashing than the average lobster.)”

 

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I’m not patting my back as I say this. Truly, I’m not. I’m more marveling at God’s goodness. I did nothing (you have no idea the degree to which I can do nothing) to bring this about and still he did his thing.

Don’t get me wrong, had you peeked into the windows of my home these past few months, you probably wouldn’t have seen a serene woman down on her knees. But you might have seen a wife who poured out a bit more love, a mother who showed a little more patience, and a woman who faced uncertainty with slightly more trust than she would have five years ago.

Of course, God knows that this lobster is far (so, so far) from perfectly tender. And so I know that he’s about to put me right back into the pot. That’s how these reprieves always go. They give you just enough time to breathe deep, recharge your batteries, and prepare for the next challenge. And that’s actually okay with me. With a little trepidation and as much faith as I can muster, I say bring it on…

Another day, another lobster pot.

 

I hope you are all having a beautiful, joy-filled Easter!

 ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

{I’d love to connect with you on Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Instagram ~ or Pinterest!}

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Love in the Time of Scarlet Fever

by Hallie @ Moxie Wife on January 27, 2014

Love in the Time of Scarlet Fever

My husband and my steroid share a name. That seems appropriate after this weekend. Lifesavers, both of them.

I used to think love was freshly picked Magnolias, playful puddle jumping, and holding hands in the rain. I thought it was sweet nothings and kisses behind the ear. I thought it was letters penned with passion and odes to love carved into sand. I thought it was skywriting, fireworks, and kisses that make cartoon hearts pop out of the besotted.

I still do. But, oh my goodness, how those things only scratch the surface.

Our entire little family of eight (save the baby) came down with Scarlet Fever this weekend. It was just about as unpleasant as you would imagine.

Misery, thy name is Scarlet Fever.

Thankfully, there were a couple of smiles mixed in, too. Like the moment my little Lucy stood up on the top of her bunk at bedtime and dramatically announced that it was a good thing she had medicine because without it she would have “DIED because Scarlet Fever is a VERY SERIOUS DISEASE.”

Thank you, Velveteen Rabbit.

So, smiles, yes, and also love. Love like this:

I spent most of Saturday lying in bed while Dan held down the fort. I won’t lie — I was pretty relieved that he’d thus far been spared so that I could sleep, soak, and wallow. He cooked and cleaned, doled out medicine and wiped feverish brows, and he ran errands. He insisted that I sleep, sleep, and sleep some more. He served without ceasing, complaining, or seeking recognition. (I almost never serve without ceasing, complaining, or seeking recognition.)

Later in the day we decided it was time to take the older boys to the ER. They left well before dinnertime and stumbled back in after bedtime. The boys gathered around me on the couch — while Dan made one last run to the pharmacy — and regaled me with tales of their ER adventure. At one point, their eyes got very big and they told me in hushed, serious tones that when the doctor had looked at their Daddy’s throat she had pronounced him the sickest of all.

The sickest of all.

That’s right. My “healthy” husband who had been keeping the family afloat while I slumbered was in truth, every bit as sick as the rest of us. He never said a word; never uttered a complaint; never even sat down to rest.

That, my friends, is love.

Sometimes it’s all that other sparkly stuff, as well, but when you get down deep into the heart of it, love is profound self-sacrifice offered with a sweet kiss, a wink of the eye, and a tender smile. (And I’m pretty sure those last three things are optional in a cherry on top kind of way.)

Someone once asked me (innocently) why husbands and wives praise their spouses publicly. Was it just to brag?

I don’t think so. At least not all the time.

There’s a lot of talk out there (some of it coming from yours truly) about how very hard marriage can be. That’s not a bad thing. I think that being honest about our struggles helps others to feel a little less alone. It’s good to know that the valleys are normal so that they don’t seem quite so cold and dark when you stumble upon them.

But that’s only one part of marriage.

A marriage on its best days will light up the sky far more brightly than any man-made fireworks. To see another selflessly (and often at great cost to themselves) pour themselves out for you — and to feel that irresistible urge to pour yourself out for them — will take your breath away and make you wonder at God’s love for undeserving you. At least it’s always had that effect on me.

People need to hear these happy, hopeful stories, too.

Marriage will stretch and challenge you in ways you never imagined — absolutely — but it will also bring you more joy than you once thought it was possible to possess.

The more challenging moments will not only pale in comparison to the happier ones but truly and in some mystical way, the good times will transform the bad times into things of beauty. Sometimes only in retrospect and in a “I’m grateful for the growth opportunity” kind of way, but still. The interplay between the two is really something.

I could go on and on, but I’m all drugged up and who knows where and when that would end, Plus, I should probably run and duck because when Dan sees that I wrote this, he will surely send the pillows flying my way. He’s not a huge fan of my sharing the sweet, selfless things he does with other people.

Plus, I have a VERY SERIOUS DISEASE to combat.

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Party Planning is My Charism

by Hallie @ Moxie Wife on January 23, 2014

Last week a friend of mine sent me my very own FitBit. Isn’t that ridiculously sweet? I couldn’t believe it. She wins all the friendship gold medals and I should probably name my next child after her.

As I suspected, I am completely smitten, it’s everything I dreamed it would be, and my life is forever changed. No surprise there.

What was surprising is the little bombshell its trusty sleep tracker just dropped in my lap. According to it’s well-calibrated motion detector, my sweet-as-pie baby boy has been waking me up an average of fifty times a night! How about that?

Fifty, girls. FIFTY.

I mean, I knew that I wasn’t sleeping — and haven’t been for almost ten months — but I don’t think I realized just how bad it was. Not every sleep disruption requires that I get out of bed, of course, but they all require that I exit the delicious world of REM and tend to Charlie in some way.

I think you can go one of two ways when you find out that your sleep patterns rival those of a Gulag prisoner. You can throw a massive pity party (and there’s no shame in that game — you have totally earned it, you partiers of pity) or you can go the bad a** route. As in: only a truly amazing person could survive nearly a year of intense sleep-deprivation.

I go back and forth, but at the moment I’m totally donning my cape. It’s pink and has AWESOME written all over it, in case you were wondering. (You’ll probably get your invite to my cape burning party next week, though, so be on the lookout for that.)

Anyway, I had an epiphany that blew my mind, and probably won’t blow yours, but I’m going to share it anyway. Here goes:

Adding tasks to my to-do list can (potentially) give me energy.

Crazy, I know.

Jen has written about this in the past, and I love her thoughts. As with so many things, though, it took me a while to really get it on a personal level.

I’ve long been inspired by this idea that every person should seek out the things of this world that make them feel alive and had a pretty good idea before Charlie was born of which sort of things enlivened me and which things, though lovely, belong on my personal Life Ruining list.

Howard Thurman quote

While in the midst of sleep-deprivation, though, even the things which normally exhilarate me deplete me. I just figured that was to be expected given the circumstances and that there was nothing to do but wait out this survival season.

When the Holy Spirit hit Jen and me upside the head with this idea that we should throw a big party this summer our initial reaction was “Ha ha ha — you’re funny, God.” Because our lives? They are intense. Eventually we consented, though, and desperately embraced the mantra: “If God brings you to it, he’ll bring you through it.”

Never in a million years would I have expected that the gathering we’re planning would become that thing that makes me excited to hop out of bed in the morning. (Can party planning be a charism? I think yes.) Even when our venue fell through, and we had to toss out all of our hard work, create a new vision, and start from scratch, it was this event that kept me smiling in spite of all exhaustion.

Every morning I wake up, pour over the options, and start plotting ways in which we can make everyone’s visit to Austin as fun and fulfilling as possible. By the time Jen wakes up over in CST land, she usually has at least five emails that say:

Ooh, this place has a rooftop pool!

This place will hand out tickets for free glasses of wine when our guests arrive!

This place has a coffee shop in the lobby!

And this place is right in the heart of downtown Austin!

What about Karaoke? We totally need a Karaoke machine!

(Except with far more exclamation points and emoticons.)

It’s such a high for me, I can’t even tell you.

As I was puzzling over how it was that planning this gathering (which is, no doubt about it, a lot of work) could leave me feeling so invigorated, it hit me that within the list of things that make me feel alive and bring joy to my life, there is a sublist of things that have the power to energize me. It seems so simple and obvious, but this idea that some of my passions fuel me and some of them require fuel really was kind of a lightning bolt moment for me.

The little changes I’ve made as a result of this realization are already bearing fruit and the idea that there are things out there that — though technically fall under the category of ‘work’ — can give me energy when my stores are low, is exciting.

It’s not a panacea, of course. I’m still tired, my inbox is shamefully neglected (as is this blog), my laundry pile is two floors too high, and I still have to accomplish all sorts of things each day that sap my energy. That’s just life. But still, I feel like I have a new tool in my arsenal and new tools make me feel like I’m going to win at all the things.

And even if this experiment ends up being full of fail, you won’t hear too many complaints from me. There are far worse things that could wake a gal up every 9.6 minutes than this guy. Wrapped around his little finger, I am.

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Love, Life, and Death

by Hallie @ Moxie Wife on November 26, 2013

Dan, the kids, and I attended Valerie and Nathan’s wedding just over two weeks ago. It was such a high, I can’t even tell you. I came back wanting to write a post that simply said: CRASH ALL THE WEDDINGS!!!

We don’t often get to attend weddings together. I see now that this has been a mistake. We should have been breaking down the walls of the local young adults group begging them to befriend us and invite us to all their ceremonies. Because the romance at these weddings? It’s in the air you breathe and the water (and wine) you drink. It’s crazy.

Hearing Nathan and Valerie say their vows swept me right back to that cool October evening in 2001 that found Dan and me standing face-to-face in an old Spanish church promising to love one another through good times and bad. We exchanged a tender glance and in some mystical way, I could almost feel our vows being renewed, separated though we were by several pews thanks to little ones who were starting to question the promise of the elusive wedding cake. (See below.)

Z-grump

Hours later we danced in the upstairs room of a charming little French restaurant with Charlie tucked between us. I was reminded of just how far we have come in these last twelve years and how our love has grown and (literally) multiplied. That, too, was a very special moment.

In the two weeks since their wedding, though, it feels like every time I open my computer there is news of another wife who has suddenly lost her beloved husband after five months, two years, seven years, and more than twenty years (still, far, far too soon) of marriage.

As I read those sad announcements one by one, still high off of the wedding we’d just attended, I was struck by what an act of faith it is to marry another. In doing so, we open ourselves to life, yes, but also death. And not just the possibility of death, but the assurance of death. Not forever, of course — our hope being in life everlasting — but earthly, excruciating death, nonetheless.

I don’t think I’d ever really thought about the fact that it takes bravery to say ‘yes’ to marriage. I’ve always known that for all the bliss, there will be pain involved in this journey, but something about the quick succession of all of these losses has really brought home the fact that through our marital fiats, we’ve invited in the possibility of a pain so acute that it has the power to knock us to our knees and steal our breath.

That’s no small thing.

What I’ve seen lately, though, is the manifestation of marriage as a community experience and it’s been a beautiful sight to behold. I had the privilege of watching as Nathan and Valerie’s friends gathered to pray, and dance, and toast them. Then I came home and also had the privilege of watching as these young widows were gathered up and kept alive by the God-given breath of their sisters (both in blood and in Christ) until they could breathe again on their own. In theory, I know that God’s grace knows no bounds, but to see it in action is always awe-inspiring.

I know this isn’t any kind of revelation. Wise men and women, scholars, saints, and everybody else have been discussing such things for all of time, and I don’t have anything new to add, really. But in that strange way that joy can bubble up out of even the most overwhelming grief, even as my heart has ached for these women, I’ve experienced gratitude. For my own marriage (whatever days Dan and I may have left to spend together here on earth), yes, but also for all of you who have made yourself vulnerable and bravely said yes to marriage.

It’s an honor to share the experience of this ecstatic and treacherous journey with you and it’s a comfort to know that we are all in this together. Though I know most of you strictly through the Internet, I’m grateful for you and so very glad we’ve found one another. It brings me such peace to know you’re out there. During whatever moments of quiet we can cultivate during this holiday season, let’s pray for one another and for all of our sisters out there who are grieving.

May your Thanksgiving be filled with love, light, and laughter.

 

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

As I mentioned over on Facebook, a fund has been set up here to support one of the widows (and her unborn child) I mentioned. If you know of any other similar endeavors, please let me know and I will add them to my Facebook page, as well. Thank you!

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A Letter to a Young Bride

by Hallie @ Moxie Wife on October 24, 2013

Moxie Wife: A Letter to a Young Bride

My friend Valerie is getting married in 16 days. At this moment she’s traveling across the country en route to her soon-to-be new home where she will unload her belongings and settle in a bit before returning to Charleston for the wedding.

I haven’t known Valerie long, but I just love her to pieces. She reminds me a lot of myself — only cuter, sweeter, smarter, and more holy. I miss her already.

It’s been such a joy to watch as she got engaged and now prepares for marriage. She has such respect for the sacrament and a deep, deep love for her fiance. We’ve talked a lot about marriage over the past few months and I’ve quietly wondered, “If I could share just one piece of advice with her, what would it be?”

There are, of course, so many things I’d like to share, so many things I wish I’d known prior to getting married. Every time I’d settle on that one thing I’d like her to know, though, it struck me that in order to know this thing I wanted to share with her — to truly know it deep down in her bones and on a soul level — she’s going to have to live it first.

You can read books about marriage, listen to all the advice in the world, and study other couples — and it’s good to do these things — but often, to be able to integrate a piece of marital advice, you have to experience the pain of conflict and the sweetness of reconciliation a few times before the a-ha! moment hits you.

After a few failed attempts to settle on that one thing that I want Valerie to know, I suddenly realized that the thing I was searching for was actually the one common thread that ran through every specific piece of advice I could come up with. It was this:

Be patient with yourself, sweet Valerie, and be patient with Nathan.

This whole sharing your life with someone thing has a way of bringing you face to face with your own limitations in short order. All of your vices will come out to play, and so will his, and (as shocking as this may be) they won’t always get along. But if you’re patient — and not just in a waiting for the time to pass way, but in a tolerant, compassionate, and merciful way — you’ll find that this love you share with Nathan will grow into something far more beautiful than you could have ever envisioned.

As for having to live through a thing to know it, here’s an example:

As a bit of a hot-blooded individual, I knew (very, very, very) well the importance of picking my battles long before I married Dan. There’s something about being a newlywed that makes everything feel so incredibly important, though. Talking through every last little thing? Important! Going to sleep at the same time every night? Important! Putting the milk on the third row, left-hand side of the refrigerator? So important!

This isn’t a bad thing. When a man and woman come together and endeavor to make a life together, they need to establish habits that will make their new life run smoothly. Some things simply have to be hashed out. But if I told you that it didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things whether he backs his car into parking spaces, will that stop your blood from running a little hot?

Probably not. All the advice in the world wouldn’t have made any difference for newly-wedded me. I was right and Dan was wrong and the fact that he did not grasp this information was something that had to be remedied. It was as simple as that. I was willing to die on every last little hill.

But after a few years of ruined romantic evenings that found us stewing at opposite sides of the house instead of snuggling on the couch, those things that once felt so important to me suddenly started to feel a little less so. I just wanted to be with him. Life is hard enough without fighting unnecessary battles within the walls of your own home.

A Letter to a Young Bride

There are countless other examples, of course — getting used to the silence into which so many men retreat when they’re in problem-solving mode, learning how to endure the valleys, trusting God to fix things between you that you cannot — but if you extend to one another the same merciful patience that God extends to you each and every day, your marriage will flourish and be such a gift to this hurting world of ours.

Gosh, I hope this isn’t demoralizing. I don’t mean for it to be. My marriage is pretty much my most favorite thing in the whole world and I have no doubt that you and Nathan, too, will experience far, far more highs than lows in your own union.

But on those days when learning the art of marriage feels heavy on your shoulders, don’t let spiritual attack make you believe that any of these bumps in the road mean more than they do. None of these growing pains point to a lack of love or some profound deficiency in your union. It’s just a big change to go from two to one — one that every married couple has to wrestle with a little. And one that, you guessed it, takes a whole lot of patience.

The good news is that there are very few things in marriage that can’t be fixed with a few fervent prayers, a heartfelt apology, a touch of forgiveness, and a dose of sweet, sweet lovin’ (wink).

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