Friday, August 30, 2013

Re-focused (#7QT)

After taking a month-long blogging break for our move, I'm coming back to blogging with a completely different mindset.  In some ways, I had been feeling that my blog was controlling me more than I was controlling my blog.  I was, quite honestly, burned out and my writing showed that.  After a month off, I realized that I liked the idea of only blogging three days a week.  (Or maybe not at all.)

I've been joining the Blog Planning Boot Camp put on by this week and doing so made me realize that my blog has lost it's purpose and focus.  This blog has evolved quite a bit over time, but at the core, my intent is the same as it always was: to create a place for women to find encouragement from like-minded women.  Originally, I focused on other newlyweds and now my focus is more on marriage and motherhood, but the idea is the same.  At times in our lives, we can find ourselves isolated and lonely.  Wondering if we're doing things right.  Sensing (or maybe just hoping) that other women must be feeling like we do but not knowing who or how to approach the topics.  And just thinking about that focus, that intention has invigorated my desire to write and my love for the blogging community.

I wrote a new tagline for the blog to summarize my new focus: "A place to share the joys and embrace the challenges of marriage, children, and Catholic womanhood." Do you think this is a good representative of what I have been writing about?  Does it describe what you'd like to see me write about?  I want to be clear that everyone is welcome here, you need not be married, or a mother, or Catholic, or even a woman.  But that's who I am, and those are the things that are important to me and that I know, so they are the things I write on.  We live in a culture that is in many ways anti-marriage, anti-children, anti-faith, and anti-woman and in my life offline, as well as here, I love to share with others just how false society's views of these things are.  There is so much joy to be had from marriage, parenting, womanhood, and religion, and while they come with challenges and difficulties, don't all endeavers worth doing? 

Many bloggers struggle with finding a balance between blogging and other obligations (family, work, other projects).  And yet others have found that balance, and I think I know how.  Through passion and direction.  Writing becomes much easier if I have a plan and a purpose.  I feel like now I can sit at my computer, immerse myself in writing a blog post our two, really pour my soul into it, then when I'm done I can leave and devote myself with just as much passion (are you kidding?  MORE) to my husband and daughter and my other pursuits.  Plus, three good, solid content posts a week is better than seven days of boring life updates and streams of conscious. 

While on the topic of passion, I must share with you how much David adores his job.  And how happy that makes me.  After a year-long job search, then what seemed like a million mile move BACK to where we lived a year prior, it's wonderful to know that all was not for naught.  David went into this job thinking of it as a career move and it seems that it is.  Praise the Lord!

I love reading about faithful, life affirming athletes and celebrities.  I was blown away by this interview with White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers.  Here's a little snippet of the goodness:
Another way that Mary has led me closer to her son is through the sacrament of reconciliation. I appreciate it a great deal because of the relief it can bring to your soul as soon as you finish. The dead weight of sin is lifted off your shoulders, and you experience the great love and refreshment this brings. You’re freed to live as a child of God because the grace to do this is imparted to you.
St. Augustine said it is a greater work to make a just man out of a sinner than to create heaven and earth. This is amazingly accomplished by Jesus when you go to reconciliation, and I’d strongly encourage those who haven’t experienced this in a while to do so this week. Get back to Jesus and get renewed in his grace.
It was so difficult for me to choose a quote from the interview because it is so, so quotable.  He not only talks about his faith, his and his wife's difficulty conceiving, and his devotion to the Blessed Mother, he goes deep into theology and the relationship between Mother and Son.  Now this is an athlete that makes a great role model for our children!

How do toddler parents get ANYTHING done?  Lulu is what one might call "high needs" right now, but I don't think she's more than other 20 month olds.  She's just so busy and so into everything.  Curious, you might say.  I'm chasing her around and cleaning up after her messes and playing with her and I call it a good day if I do a half load of laundry (either the putting in the washer portion or the hanging up portion) between waking up in the morning and nap time.

Don't you just love this dress?  I looks like something I might have worn (or my mom).  Timeless!

How do you decide which pictures to hang in your house?  Between engagement, wedding, maternity, newborn, milestone, and now anniversary pictures, we have a ton of pictures that we love and limited wall space.  I found a great deal on a 16x20 photo canvas for only $26 (only $20.80 with code "AugBest20" plus $4.95 shipping) and ordered picture #4 from our wedding re-do photo shoot.  I see these deals come up from time to time (although not usually quite that amazing of a deal) but I just get so flustered having to choose which pictures to get printed that I never get any.  Obviously, I can't have the 10 pictures I love from each shoot, so how would you narrow it down?  

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Marriage Is...

...a sacrament and a blessing. - Hayley, married since February, 2003

...a conscious decision to be and do for another no matter how feelings may change. - KelleyAnnie, married since July 2009

...for the propagation, welfare, and education of children.  - deltaflute, married since July 2007

...wonderful and full of surprises until one day you find yourself alone again because you have reached until death do you part. - Barbara, married 15 years, widowed 18 years ago alliance entered into by a man who can't sleep with the window shut and a woman who can't sleep with the window open. - George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright, married 45 years many things, but in its essence, I believe marriage is the ultimate friendship; you cannot expect to love & be loved in return without treating each other as true friends first! - Ali, married since May 2011

...a gift from God. - RMCH, married since April 2010

...a great good, not only for the bride and groom, but for the rest of society. - Erica, married since December 2010

...never selfish or one-sided. - Allie, married since August 2009

...a commitment - a decision to do, all through life, that which will express your love for one's spouse. - Herman H Kieval, American Rabbi, married 49 years

...marrying the guy who makes me laugh and makes me feel beautiful even when I fell like I'm at my worst. - Jen, married since March 2002

...the never ending opportunity to die to yourself. - Ann-Marie, married since July 2007 vocation. - Christina Rose, married since July 2007

...sharing in your life together as one. - Emily, married since May 2013

...our last, best chance to grow up. - Joseph Barth, US clergyman (Ladies Home Journal, April 1961) and friendship and sharing and sacrifice and a million other things but is NEVER boring! - Rebecca, married since July 2008

...growing together in union. - Elizabeth, married since June 2012

...sharing your life forever. - HollyElise, married since December 2009

...a book of which the first chapter is written in poetry and the remaining chapters in prose. - Beverley Nichols, British author and playwright

...a breeding ground for sainthood (both our own and the little people who may come)! - Rakhi, married since September 2009

...learning that you have annoying habits too! - Stacy, married since April 2012

...the reason I'm so happy. - M, married since August 2010 long conversation, checkered with disputes. - Robert Louis Stevenson, Scottish author and poet, married 14 years

....always having someone there for you when everything else may be gone. - Amy, married since July 2010

...something that turns two individuals into one united team. - James, married since July 2003

...three parts love and seven parts forgiveness of sins. - Langdon Mitchell, American playwright

...sharing your life with your best friend. - Trisha, married since August 2010

...two people willing to go to the end of the earth to make the other happy/smile. - Ashley, married since June 2007

...100/100, NOT 50/50. - Katie, married since January 2012

...not a ritual or an end.  It is a long, intricate, intimate dance together and nothing matters more than your own sense of balance and your choice of partner. - Amy Bloom, American writer

And for a beautiful, beautiful take on marriage, you MUST watch this video, A Letter from Fred.  A 96 year old man entered a singer/songwriter contest with a song he wrote to his recently deceased wife of 70+ years!

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Shortest Month of the Year February.  But for my family, August always seems like the shortest month of the year.  School begins again, and this year that means Lucia and I had to say goodbye to time with David as he started his first teaching job.  In Colorado, we could always expect the first snow of the season in September, so August is the last month we can truly count on summer weather.  It's a bit different here in North Carolina and I'm hoping that summer days will be sticking around for a while.

Lucia and I got on the plane to officially move to NC on August first.  Since arriving, we've done so much to settle in to our new home, but there is still so much to do. I don't know why, but I kind of had it in my mind that we should be "all settled in" by the end of the month.  But August just few by (even faster than July, which was much of a whirlwind).  I'd love to start inviting friend over to dinner and such, but we're just not at that point

With the month almost over, I can't miss the opportunity to share my sponsors with you.

As you do  your back-to-school shopping, and in not too long start your holiday shopping won't you keep these small businesses in mind?  Need a new blog read?  There are a few GREAT choices below. 

Meet Barefoot with Teresa.
Children's books. Bilingual books.
Healthy living. Puzzles and gifts.
Hi, I am Teresa, a wife, mama, and Barefoot Books Ambassador, and I am thrilled to introduce you to the award-winning books and gifts that Barefoot has to offer. Whether it's books that focus on world cultures and bilingual emphasis, natural and healthy living, or animals in your neighborhood or on the farm, Barefoot Books has it all. Please check out My Marketplace and use coupon code TWENTY13 for 20% off your order!
Meet Christie.
Loyal Catholic. Fairy tale enthusiast. Aspiring writer.
Inexplicable obsession with Norway & spinning wheels.
 Pupil to G.K. Chesterton.
I am an ex-ex-pat living in Florida with my small family and hoping to one day return to Wales. Everything to Someone is a blog about motherhood, housewifery, homeschooling, writing, and being Catholic. It's eclectic like me, spanning topics from theology and philosopy to fashion and finding rhythm and beauty in the mundane. You'll probably detect my roots in Arthurian literature and love for books and reading.  Always with photos. Lots of photos. And lists. I like making lists.
blog | facebook | twitter | book 

Meet Diaperpedia.
Change is inevitable. It's the little things. 
Let Diaperpedia help you find them.  Happy baby.
Diaperpedia is an app available on iPhone and iPad for parents, nannies, grandparents, or any baby caregiver to help them find baby changing table locations.  It's free and you'll also get an entry into our monthly contest for $50, $25, and $25 every time you add a new changing table location to the map. Games are fun, but finding a changing table shouldn't be hide-and-go-seek.
appstore | twitter | facebook | website

Meet Blogging for Brett.
Orphan. CP. Needs a mama.
Adorable. So much promise.
Brett is an orphan in Eastern Europe who needs a mama. I started advocating for him through Reece's Rainbow in April 2012 because I couldn't believe that such an adorable little boy should face life in an orphanage and eventually a mental institution just because his legs don't wok.  I'm hoping through this blog that we can find Brett some parents and give him a brighter future in Canada or the USA.
facebook | Reece's Rainbow | blog

Meet The Hydrangea Hut.
Tutus. Boutique Bows.  T-shirts.
Onesies. Bowties. Custom orders.
This little shop is a way of bringing original designs to a wider audience, for a fair price. Custom orders are my favorite as they inspire me to stretch my imagination to create perfect outfits for your precious little one.
shop | pinterest | facebook

Meet INKtastic.
Personalized onesies. Personalized baby clothes. 
Family friendly apparel. Custom t-shirts.
INKtastic is a family-owned business that offers family friendly custom t-shirts and apparel with an emphasis on personalized baby clothing. With a motto of, "If we wouldn't buy it, we won't sell it!" you can rest assured you will be happy with your order along with a 30-day hassle free return policy. Select from a wide variety of high quality graphics, create your own personalized message, or upload your own images directly from your computer!  Top quality products, affordable pricing, one-of-a-kind custom printed apparel.
Get 10% through the end of the month with code "Aug2013".
shop | especially for baby | pinterest | facebook

Meet Sarah.
Wife to Dan. Mother to Emily & Erin. Daughter of God.
Lover of family, faith, food, and life.
 I'm Sarah, a young Catholic wife and mommy who loves to run, cook, bake, write, keep house (most of the time), and spend time outside.  I'm the lucky wife to a wonderful husband and mother of baby twin girls.  I strive to include my faith in all parts of my life, and I'm excited to share our journey as a newly made family of four - come join us!
blog | pinterest | facebook | twitter

Meet Buhbay.
Personalized art prints. Christian d├ęcor
Filling homes with the Word of God.
Current, fashionable designs. Witty & fun.
Hi, I'm Amanda, proud owner of Buhbay. I'm a full-time mom, and part-time graphic designer. At Buhbay, every one of my art prints is made with love and warm fuzzies. My art is inspired by my own two kids, and my passion about displaying the Word of God in our homes in a way kids will love, and you'll love too!

If you'd like to be part of the sponsor spotlight next month, 
check out the sponsorship options! I'd love to have you!
Use code "blessed" until the end of August to get 10% off any ad space. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Thought-Provoking Links

Instead of doing my usual Quick Takes, this Friday I'm sharing some links I've been saving up for a rainy day.  If any particular article/post provokes your interest, I'd love if you'd add some fodder for discussion in the comments!  I wish I could have all of you in my living room for some coffee//wine/margaritas and some lively conversation.

I read this article just last night and my heart is still aching.  Delbert Belton, an 89 year old WWII veteran who had been wounded during the war, was beaten to death by two teenagers.  Instead of being honored by the youth for his sacrifices for our country, he was killed.  What's more, have you seen this story in the news?  I haven't.  I saw it on Twitter.  I don't think I'll ever forget the name of Delbert Belton. 

What do you call a traffic situation in which several roads meet in a circle and you have to get off at a certain point?  Did you know Americans have THREE different names for this depending on region?  Fascinating.  22 Maps That Show The Deepest Linguistic Conflicts in America.

I've been told that my education was a waste since my "career goal" has always been stay-at-home mom.  A smart response from an Ivy League grad.

Why do women get so worked up about due dates?  The Due Date Debacle.

I've never liked the phrase "guard your heart" but couldn't put words as to why.  Christina did for me.  Stop Guarding Your Heart and Start Paying Attention to Reality.

My husband is not my soul mate.  I don't believe in soul mates.  There are probably a hundred+ men in this world I could have married and had a holy, fulfilling marriage (to varying degrees).  That doesn't mean I don't love my husband with all my heart, just that he was the choice I made in the life route and circumstances I took.  I feel somewhat alone in this disbelief of soul mates, so I appreciated this post

Along the same vein: Why We Shouldn't Be Interested in Raising Safe Christian Kids and How I Let My Boys Play: Physical Play is Not Wrong.

This connection between domestic violence and "parenting" is thought-provoking: Domestic Violence - Being the Voice for Voiceless Victims.

Only 6 weeks for maternity leave?  You've got to be kidding.  Why Are America's Postpartum Practices So Rough on New Mothers?

Five Reasons to Stop Saying "Good Job".

If you say your goal is to help women, you probably shouldn't be helping sex traffickers.  8 Outrageous Things Planned Parenthood was Caught Doing. 

Lilla Rose currently has a sale with 10-20% off over 100 items.  Lilla Rose sales are rare (as a customer it seemed like forever between sales - so I signed up as a consultant to get the consultant discount!). Lilla Rose also sells gorgeous badge clips; if you are a teacher/know a special teacher, they are a nice way to start out the new school year. Sale ends midnight Saturday.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Vote With Your Dollars: The Hydrangea Hut

Let's talk about something: money.  More specifically, what you do with it.  I can remember the very first time I heard the phrase "voting with dollars".  I had a high school social studies teacher who used that phrase maybe too much.  But it rung true with me and I still think of it every time I make a purchase.  You see, you make a much bigger impact on society with the money you spend than with the ballots you cast.  I still vote (you should too!) but each time I spend my money, I'm sending a much stronger message about what is important to me.  

Do you hold a strong position on a specific social issue?  Don't support companies that contribute to the opposing position.  

Disagree with the lifestyles of athletes in certain professional sports leagues?  And how much they get paid?  Probably should be thinking twice about going to a game, buying a jersey.  (You probably shouldn't watch either - those ratings are as good as money.) 

Serious about the environment? Buy from environmentally-friendly companies.

There are several things I'm passionate about that affect how I shop.  Environmentally-friendly.  Pro-life.  Non-toxic.  Small business. 

Now let me share a small business that I love supporting: The Hydrangea Hut.

Elizabeth has been an online friend of mine for a while now and we were recently blessed to be able to meet her and her family.  In addition to being super sweet, she's also incredibly talented and creative. 

She has channeled her creativity into The Hydrangea Hut, where she makes baby and child items ranging from bowties and hairbows to tutus and scarfs.  While she has items in her etsy shop, she specializes in custom orders and this is what makes her truly unique.  Does your child like a certain character or animal?  Elizabeth is able to take that love and make it into something special.  Take a look at this minion tutu!  Where else can you get a Despicable Me tutu?  Nowhere.  

Elizabeth offered to send me a bow for Lulu.  When I told her that she loves ladybugs and, in fact, is her papa's "Little Ladybug", she told me she had just the thing.  And this is what arrived in the mail:

Gorgeous, no?  And it (quite coincidentally) matches the ladybug dress Lulu got from her papa.  

Now let me tell you what the picture doesn't adequately show: the quality.  I've bought homemade bows before.  They are usually glued together.  I love me some hot glue and all, but any toddler parents knows that their little ones can destroy pretty much anything and hot glue just doesn't cut it.  This bow is sewn together, including that sweet little ladybug button.  Sewn on.  Already yanked and yanked and that bug isn't going anywhere.  I love this.  LOVE this.

And now what Lucia wants you to know: this is her favorite hair bow.  She always asks me to wear this.  She usually doesn't wear this with her ladybug dress.  She wears it with pajamas.  Or just a diaper and shoes.  Or that orange dress that totally clashes with it.  And you might just see a tantrum if I try to put a bow on her that matches.  So I guess Elizabeth is going to have to make us bows in every possible color.  Bummer, but I guess I will just have to get more darling bows.  (*wink, wink*)

Did I mention that the prices are really reasonable too?  

You can check out The Hydrangea Hut on facebook here, the etsy shop here, or request your custom item at  Get 10% off any order with code "messywife".

Enter below to win $5 to The Hydrangea Hut (that's the price of many of the bows).  Two quick entry options and you could be on your way to a cute little hairbow or bowtie (or any item you and Elizabeth can think up together).  US only please!

$5 to The Hydrangea Hut

I received a hair bow free to facilitate this review.  Opinions are 100% my own and 100% true.  I just love this bow, you know?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wedding Re-do Photos

Last month, David and I celebrated 3 years of marriage!  I'd been toying with the idea of anniversary pictures for a while now.  Not just any anniversary pictures, but ones where I dusted off my wedding dress, squeeeezed in, and took the outdoor pictures I always wanted.  Our wedding day was a hot one, and add to it the church employee who kicked us out of the church before we finished pictures (and left me crying), I just wasn't up for outdoor pictures on the day of our wedding.  With our impending move (I wasn't bringing my wedding dress with us) and the possibility that at some future anniversary I might be unable to fit into my dress (due to pregnancy, or otherwise), I figured if it was ever going to happen, now was the time...


"3 years
1096 days
1 baby girl
3 states
& 1 PhD later,
we still do!
(& the dress still fits!)"*


We read to each other from our family Bible the readings from our wedding.  Neither of us could remember what they were, so I had to find our wedding program.  It was exciting searching for the passages, unsure of what we would find there, then remembering the discussions we originally had when we chose them over three years ago.




Photos were taken by an old high school friend of mine, Lacy, who recently started a photography business, Dandy Little Lens.  If you are in Northern Colorado, I can't recommend her enough.  Lacy was not only a fellow cheerleader in high school, but she's a mom of a preemie and cancer survivor.  She and her sweet one are both healthy now, but she's gone through some hard times and is still one of the most genuinely kind people I know.  And talented, obviously.

*When posting this photo on Facebook, I got numerous comments from friends saying they thought it was going to be a pregnancy announcement.  Honestly, I thought about that too when planning the pictures.  It really would be a great pregnancy announcement, right?  Well, can't announce news you don't have, but now I'm going to have to raise the bar when we do have something to announce.  If you have a favorite pregnancy announcement, won't you toss the link in comments?  I have to start a Pinterest board now...

I'll be sharing more next week, including some individuals of my sweet Lulu that Lacy took during the shoot, but for now, I'm linking up with Moxie Wife's Five Favorites.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

For Those with Mental Illness

Today, I will be starting a novena to St. Dymphna for all people suffering with mental illness.  Several people have shown interest in praying with me, so I am posting the novena prayer here and will be sending out reminders each day through social media.  If you would like to follow along, you can like Messy Wife, Blessed Life on Facebook, follow on Twitter, or leave me your email (in the comments or email it to as I'll be emailing out a daily reminder as well.  

What is a novena? A novena is a nine day series of prayers said for a specific intention(s). 

Who is St. Dymphna? St. Dymphna was a young Christian girl living in Ireland in the 7th century.  Her father was a pagan king, her mother a Christian.  After the death of her mother, she was pursued for a romantic relationship by her father, she fled from home, was eventually found by her father and was killed.  She was only 15 at her death.  She is the patron Saint of those suffering from nervous disorders and mental illness.  Her feast day is May 15th.  You can read more about her here.

Why do Catholics (and various other Christian denominations) pray to Saints? When we pray to Saints, we are not worshiping or adoring them, rather, we are asking for their prayers.  They, for various reasons, are examples of how to follow God.  We also know that they are with Him in heaven,  Just as we might ask friends or family members to pray for us, we ask the Saints, who are in heaven with the Lord to bring our petitions to Him.  We do not do this instead of bringing our prayers directly to God, but in addition.  For more, read this short and sweet 2-minute apologetics on the topic or this explanation.

Prayer (to be said nine consecutive days):

St. Dymphna, a great wonder worker in every affliction of mind and body, I humbly implore your powerful intercession with Jesus through Mary, the Health of the Sick.

You are filled with love and compassion for the thousands of patients brought to your shrine for centuries and for those who cannot come to your shrine but invoke you in their homes or in hospitals. Show the same love and compassion toward me, your faithful client. The many miracles you have wrought through your intercession give me great confidence that you will help me in my present need. (state your specific request or intention here!)

I am confident of obtaining my request, if it is for the greater glory of God and the good of my soul. For the sake of Jesus and Mary, whom you loved so earnestly, and for whom you offered your life in martyrdom, grant my prayer.

St. Dymphna, young and beautiful, innocent and pure, help me to imitate your love of purity. You chose to be martyred by your own fathers sword rather than consent to sin. Give me strength and courage in fighting off the temptations of the world and evil desires.

As you have given all the love of your heart to Jesus, help me to love God with my whole heart and serve Him faithfully. As you bore the persecution of your father and the sufferings of an exile so patiently, obtain for me the patience I need to accept the trials of my life with loving resignation to the will of God.

St. Dymphna, through your glorious martyrdom for the love of Christ, help me to be loyal to my faith and my God as long as I live. And when my hour of death comes, stand at my side and pray for me that I may at last merit the eternal crown of glory in God's Kingdom.

Good St. Dymphna, I beg you to recommend my request to Mary, the Health of the Sick, and Comforter of the Afflicted, that both of you may present it to Jesus, the Divine Physician.

O God, You gave St. Dymphna to Your Church as a model of all virtues, especially holy purity, and willed that she should seal her faith with her innocent blood and perform numerous miracles. Grant that we who honor her as patroness of those afflicted with nervous and mental illness may continue to enjoy her powerful intercession and protection and attain eternal life. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, August 19, 2013

WIWS: Two Weeks in a Row

What I wore last Sunday:

 And because she's so cute, what Lucia wore:

What I wore this Sunday:


Dress: Elle (Kohl's) 
Shoes: Bandolino (hand-me-downs!)
Flexi clips: Lilla Rose

Notice anything? Yep, I wore the exact same dress and shoes.  Only my jewelry/hair accessories changed.  Moving in to our new home, both David and I realized we have way too much clothes.  And most of it we don't even wear.  We have several staple items we wear over and over.  I've decided that I'll be working on building up those staples and getting rid of the things I don't wear or that I do wear but don't fit well.  I did the whole "turn your hangers the opposite way" trick so I can see what I actually wear and I'm going to be very, very critical about every piece of clothing I wear.  A few items have already headed to the sell/give away pile.

If you have any tips on paring down a full, full closet and cultivating a small, classic wardrobe, I'd love to hear them.  Which items are wardrobe essentials?  Which stores are best to shop from for a balance of value and quality?

In other news, each week Lucia has lasted longer and longer during Mass without having to be brought out.  Last week she lasted until Communion.  This week she lasted the entire Mass - never had to leave at all.  So Mass grade: A.  To be honest though, she had a cold (still does) so she was a bit more sleepy than usual so we'll see how it works out this upcoming week.  

Later today, I'll be posting a novena prayer to St. Dymphna for those suffering with mental illness.  If you are interested in learning more or want to pray along with me, make sure you catch my post.  

I'm linking up to Fine Linen and Purple's What I Wore Sunday linkup.  Head over for more church attire inspiration.

On Marrying Young: 4 Tips for Young Married Couples

When I asked some of my blogger friends for guests post during our move/transition, I gave a few ideas of topics, including my two blog series (this one and Baby on a Budget).  Haley quickly responded, "Oh, marrying young. I can write on that. I was 12 years old. OK, 20. But I look 12 in the wedding pics."  Lucky you, you get to check out one of those pictures below!  And some tips from a young bride turned experienced wife and mama of three.

I didn’t plan on getting married young, it’s just how things worked out. My high school sweetheart Daniel and I broke up before I moved across the country for college, but after a few months apart we decided to try long-distance. A year later we were engaged and set the date for our wedding for five months hence, just after I completed my sophomore year. I was 20 and he was 21. Look how young and cute we were!

I’m a big fan of getting married young, but seeing that many of our friends who were married in their early twenties are already divorced, it’s clearly not for everyone. And many times we’ve asked ourselves, what makes a marriage work when you marry young? Why have we been able to stay together? I’m going to share a few of the things we’ve reflected on:

Don’t Give Yourself an Out:
Even before we converted to Catholicism, we were given strong examples of committed marriage from our parents (something we were so lucky to have!). Both sets of parents are still married and that gave us a huge advantage as we entered the married state. So we came into marriage believing that there was no “out” if we were no longer happy together. This was the decision we had made and we would have to make the best of it, come what may. This emphasis on the lifelong commitment of marriage only became deeper and richer when we entered the Church and came to see marriage as infused with sacramental grace. Despite all our mistakes and shortcomings during those first years, divorce simply was never an option and so we were motivated to solve our problems and find joy in our marriage even when it was difficult or we felt distant.

Don’t Overspend:
If you get married young, most of your friends are still college students or living like college students. There’s no need to up your living expenses simply because you’re married. In fact, getting married and sharing an apartment saved us money after living apart. Our first year we had a one bedroom apartment and couldn’t even afford furniture. We sat on pillows and Daniel made a tabletop that we rested on flower pots as our dining room table and we felt rich as kings because being married is fun. Exceeding your income will only stress out your marriage.

Don’t Overemphasize Your Individual Journey:
When you get married you are now a family that has to journey together. That means that your marriage becomes more important than your journey as an individual. This certainly does not mean that you will not grow and expand as a person, but if your journey takes you in a very different direction than your spouse, it will be a huge stress on your marriage. This means that decisions about careers and pursuits have to be made in light of what is best for your marriage. Although you both might find a career in academia personally fulfilling, if those careers require you to live in separate cities, it may simply be incompatible with a healthy marriage. It’s also crucial to encourage your spouse’s interests and enjoy those things together. I would never have become interested in farming and homesteading if not for Daniel, but as I supported his interests, I became genuinely interested myself and it’s now a part of our identity as a couple. He listened attentively to my musings on Jane Austen novels until discussing Austen’s examination of human virtue became one of our favorite topics to talk about together. So, putting your marriage above your individual aspirations doesn’t mean you will be damaging your personal journey, but that you are expanding your world to always include the other person. This was especially important as we journeyed toward the Catholic faith. We were able to do it together.

Discuss How Your Friendships Will Change:
When you’re the only married couple in your circle of friends, you have to navigate some changes to your friendships that your friends haven’t faced yet. While pre-marriage you may have had many friends of the opposite sex that you spent time with alone, you may need to alter how you view those relationships. And it’s important to discuss these transitions with your spouse at the very beginning so that you’ve already laid some ground rules before any awkward situations arise. It’s so important to expand your friendships to include your spouse. And while it might still be appropriate to spend time with friends of the opposite sex, depending on the relationship, it really might not be. It’s probably never a good idea to discuss any marital problems with a friend of the opposite sex. The bottom line is that you need to address these issues as a couple and have a game plan in place.

I am so grateful to have the opportunity to start out our married life early. Marriage makes a big dent in the selfishness that has been hiding in your heart. It brings it right to the surface so you are forced to deal with it. And the younger you are, the easier it is to attack those selfish bents. I know I’m a far better person that I was 7 years ago when I had the good fortune to marry Daniel. Sharing life with him is one of the best things to ever happen to me!

Haley Stewart is a bookish Catholic wife and mama of a preschooler, a toddler, and a newborn living in the deep south on her little urban homestead. When she gets a moment to herself she loves to read Jane Austen, Evelyn Waugh, L.M. Montgomery, or Flannery O’Connor with a cup of coffee in hand. Her husband of seven years is an amazing cook, gardener, beard-grower, ultra-marathon runner, and father who patiently puts up with her failure to stay organized and her obsession with musicals. Haley muses about cultivating a Catholic family through literature, liturgical living, and urban homesteading at her blog Carrots for Michaelmas

Please check out the other posts in the On Marrying Young series.