“Life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit.”
--- Khalil Gibran
February is one of my favorite months of the year. January is always the time for planning, focusing on goal setting and initiating effective positive changes in our life. Now we are immersed in the energy of love, romance and reflection on great memories of the past.
In this posting I will share my reflection on some of the lessons we learned in the early years of our marriage. It is quite a challenge to keep romance alive as the years slip by and we are faced with the many challenges of children, careers, money, and extended families.
We made a Marriage Encounter weekend a few months after our 5th Wedding Anniversary. That weekend is designed to make good marriages better. At that point we had not experienced disillusionment with one another. I have previously discussed the three stages in relationships: Romance, Disillusionment, and True Joy. The weekend taught us a basic means of communication to keep our relationship strong as we go through these three stages of love again and again in our commitment to one another. We were also shown that our marriage is truly a vocation and very important to our community. At the conclusion of the weekend the presenting teams asked us and two other couples to consider becoming a presenting team couple to spread what we experienced to other couples.
For five years we were one of multiple teams giving this weekend experience locally and around the country. There is a saying “You teach what you need to learn.” Over the years we have found that to be so true. We are grateful to have experienced that weekend so young in our marriage. We learned that setting aside the time each day for in depth communication is a key element to growth and closeness in our relationship.
It is so easy to take your partner for granted. It takes effort and commitment to keep communication open and honest, to share feelings, to take time for each other. We were also reminded how important the critical role romance plays in our relationship. We learned it takes prioritizing time together to make a good marriage better. Another statement given to us that weekend that changed our perception of relationships is that “Love is a decision, not a feeling.” We have a choice to act in a loving way regardless of our differences at times.
It is very important to set time aside for one another, work on romance and recall the spark that connected us in the first days of dating. If this practice isn’t ongoing then when the challenges of life like illness, financial stresses, job loss, etc., disillusionment become so powerful that it is very difficult to remember the romance of the past.
Valentine’s Day is Friday! You may find the card that says exactly how you feel. And of course it is also touching to write a few of your own heartfelt words to the person with whom you have chosen to spend your life. You may also want to consider writing a personal love letter expressing what first attracted you to your spouse and what set off that first spark of romance.
You may want to spend some time this week focusing on ideas to experience more romance in your relationship. When we were first married, we could not afford extended vacations. New Orleans is a great city to arrange a staycation. I would make reservations at a hotel for a weekend, arrange a babysitter and surprise my wife.
You may want to pull out some pictures of your first dates or you wedding day. Set up a date night where you can share the memories of that special time.
The time you spend working on your personal romance is a gift to others. We are living in a time when the reflection of that love you have for one another can offer hope when most of what we read, and view stirs up disillusionment. One of the best compliments we have ever received was from one of our granddaughters. She told us when she got married she wanted to grow old in a marriage like ours. She commented about the many things we do together and how we enjoy one another’s company.
We were blessed as a young couple by spending five years with Father Gallagher, founder of Worldwide Marriage Encounter. His passion for the enrichment of the Sacrament of Matrimony always helped us to stay focused in that direction. He wrote many books on marriage and co-wrote a powerful book entitled Embodied in Love. The following is a quote from that book, “God created us for love, for he knows that love alone brings us purpose and identity.”
You can help spread the message of the power of romance to a larger audience by sharing this post with family and friends.
“Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received, only what you have given.”
--- St. Francis of Assisi
Today, I can say what I could not say at the time I was growing up. I was blessed to come from a family that was focused on loving me and taking care of their family, friends and even strangers in need. As a teenager I started to emotionally distance myself from my father. I did not like the idea that they could not provide the financial support for the social events and lifestyle I wanted to pursue.
I was born with a different agenda, fueled with ambitions and desires they could never imagine for themselves. I was determined to experience life to the fullest, to travel and to be financially successful. At a very young age I decided I would get a part time job to start achieving my goals. By the age of eighteen I was earning more money than my father. I was not aware of the major circumstances that influenced much of the man my father had become. When he was still a young boy his mother and the baby died as she was giving birth to her eighth child. Some of the children stayed on the farm with my grandfather, and others were sent to be raised by several different family members. Survival was the priority, not education. My Dad never went to high school because every able body was needed to contribute to the income for the family. I suppose I always thought he was not very ambitious. However the one thing that made a lasting impression on me was how he was always responsive to the needs of his siblings and extended family. He and my mother generously shared their limited resources. We often had family over for Sunday dinner. Then of course those were the days when families visited each other on the weekends and stayed in touch and aware of family needs.
The last five years of my dad’s life he was dealing with kidney failure from cancer. This was a very stressful time for me as I struggled to balance working and seeing to his various needs. My mother didn’t drive. She also depended on me when any medical decision had to be made. Unfortunately there never seemed to be the time or privacy for my Dad and me to talk. I do think he would have probably felt very awkward with such a conversation.
I was blessed with a remarkable connection and healing experience with him years after he passed. I had a Soul reading with a spiritual intuitive. I had never met her prior to my appointment, and she lived outside of the city. When the reading was almost finished, she said “Your father is here, and he wants to let you know how much he loves you.” I felt like I melted in his arms. I was totally surprised that he had this message for me. Then months later I was attending a group meeting with the same intuitive and again he had a message for me.
This week two events centered around St. Francis of Assisi. I found myself thinking of my Dad. He reached out to poor family members, fed them and even housed them. He enjoyed the simple things in life like perch fishing and having a fish fry for the family every Friday. Weeks before he died, he planted tomato plants in his garden, He told my son he probably would not live to see the tomatoes, but other people would get to enjoy them. When he and his brother-in-law had a family grocery store, they allowed families in need to put the charge on the books and pay when they were able. Most of that money was never collected. My dad’s birthday on October 3 is the date St. Francis of Assisi died. My dad passed on October 4, the feast day of St. Francis. I do think this is more than happenstance.
This week you may want to reflect on one quality of your parents or a family member and send them a note to let them know that you appreciate that quality in them. Many of the blocks in personal and spiritual growth often occur when we have not healed the relationship we had with our parents. Once this is done it is much easier to develop an adult to adult relationship.
Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another.
Life after life is still a mystery to me. I really never thought our loved ones still connected with us or could embrace, support and influence us once they crossed over to another realm of existence.
The following sequence of events that have happened from last week and going back to 1991 when I scheduled an appointment for a reading with Mary Jo McCabe, a spiritual intuitive, has made me a believer that our relatives can have a positive influence on our lives.
Up until the day I traveled to Baton Rouge for my scheduled appointment with Mary Jo I had never met her, and she did not know anyone in my family. The very first words she said to me was, “Your grandmother is here on your father’s side. She is very protective of you; she’s got her arms around you.”
My grandmother had died along with the baby many years before I was born while giving birth to her eighth child. My mother had never met her because my dad was a young boy when his mother died. She was never talked about in family gatherings and in fact I did not even know her name was Elizabeth.
The following is what I believe is the influence my grandmother Elizabeth had in my life going back to the name given to me at birth. My parents decided since I was born on Christopher Columbus Day that I would be named Christopher. When they were ready to sign the birth certificate, they changed their mind and wrote the name Jesse on it. My grandfather, grandmother Elizabeth’s husband, was named was Jesse.
Out first two children are boys, but my wife had selected the name Suzanne if either would have been a girl. We really wanted a girl, but we were not having success getting a third child. We joined a large group of Marriage Encounter couples going to Lourdes and Rome for the Holy Year in 1975. While at Lourdes we prayed for another baby and my wife said we would love for it to be a girl. Nine months later my wife gave birth to a baby girl. We still had the name Suzanne in mind, but Jeanne’s dad wanted us to name her Jeanne, after my wife. We were in somewhat of a quandary. I got home after the delivery, spontaneously opened the Bible, and the page opened to the passage of Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth. I called Jeanne and said we are calling our daughter Elizabeth.
You may still be thinking that these things are just coincidental but the event that happened last week the day before my daughter’s birthday still has me amazed. My grandmother is still managing to connect with me.
I received a call from an attorney’s office saying he is settling the estate of my grandmother Elizabeth Landry’s parents. They owned a small piece of land in Donaldsonville, Louisiana that had been sold. Elizabeth was one of 11 children and she had seven surviving children. The money isn’t significant since there were so many descendants. The timing however was.
This is a profound sequence of events that has happened going back to the influence she had on the name given to me, the name we chose for of our daughter being unaware at that time of her name, and how she came to me in a reading from a spiritual intuitive. All of this has made a believer out of me that our loved ones are with us even if they passed over before we were born.
You may want to spend a quiet moment in prayer for a family member that has passed to give you a sign of their presence in your life.
Romance is the glamour which turns the
dust of everyday life into a golden haze.”
― Elinor Glyn
For those of us living in New Orleans participation in the Christian tradition of the Lenten season is a welcome change of pace. It offers us a great opportunity to do something positive after two weeks of nonstop partying to celebrate Mardi Gras.
This year offers us a dual opportunity to include romance in our Lenten practice; the first day of Lent is also Valentine’s Day. Regardless of your religious practice you may want to include some of these ideas during the next 40 days.
You may want to spend a little time today writing down a list of ideas of romantic experiences that you want to include in your daily life for the next 40 days. Romance can be experienced by being passionate and fully present in whatever you are doing in life.
If your job is hum drum what can you do to make it more exciting and interesting? If you are not happy with the energy level of your body it may be a good time to adjust your diet and initiate a routine of exercise few times a week.
Look at the primary relationships in your life. Even the best relationships will always benefit with an infusion of attention and care. The typical Valentine gift of flowers and candy will be gone in a few days. How about initiating a new practice like writing a note for the next eight weeks letting your spouse or significant other know they are appreciated and hold a special place in your heart. Be specific about what you value about them.
When Lent is over and we celebrate the Resurrection on Easter Sunday the foundation will have been put in place to truly celebrate the investment of time and energy to enhance the relationships most dear to our hearts.
“Only from the heart can you touch the sky.”
In today’s society we expect instant results. I am surely among that number. One major influence that has fostered this attitude is the experience of purchasing items on line and receiving them at my front door within two days. I do not have to do anything but enter in my credit card number and place my order! Now when I go to a department store I get very impatient when I have to wait in line to pay for my purchases. I’m not alone in my distress. Each person in line is fidgety and grumbling. The same attitude prevails if an appliance breaks. We want it fixed instantly or we just get a new one to replace it.
Unfortunately this mindset is subconsciously brought into many marriages. If the relationship isn’t working or proving to be very satisfying many young people don’t seem to have the patience to seek help before it deteriorates to the point that it cannot be fixed. Too quickly or too easily they just decide to “throw out” the relationship and seek a “replacement.”
What is not often in the news is the success that so many couples are having living out a long term relationship. Most of our friends have recently celebrated 50 years of marriage.
In my previous posting I mentioned that love is a decision and not a feeling. This is such a key concept in any valued relationship. When things are not going great it is necessary to pull out the trump card and remember “love is a decision.”
When we taught a marriage course many years ago at a local Catholic high school the girls were very encouraged to hear that the other key thing is all relationships constantly go in and out of three phases. This was something they were already experiencing in the relationships with their siblings and friends.
The following are those three phases that are always changing in any relationship:
One advantage of marriage is that, when you fall out of love with him or he falls out of love with you, it keeps you together until you fall in again.
It was recently stated in the local newspaper that New Year‘s resolutions are getting close to falling into the high category of failure. Only a small percentage will be kept after March 1.
My Dream Board has been catching my attention daily. It constantly reminds me of my intentions for this year. One of the postings is getting close to fruition. I posted “I am attracting 2,500 weekly readers to view my blog.” Because of this increased readership of last week’s posting I am close to reaching the goal. I will continue to explore this topic for the next few postings.
I will offer the following recommendations to our teenage grandchildren as they enter the dating scene. It is what I would also suggest to anyone beginning their search to attract a lifetime partner.
· The marriages of our family and those of the parents of our friends are the best role models for what we want for our marriage.
· The communication with close friends and family teaches us how to relate to a future spouse. The best gift our friends can give us is to bring out the best in us and reflect the goodness in us that we do not always see in ourselves. This is the one gift we will want to give to our spouse and one will always appreciate receiving.
When I got serious about finding a person I wanted to attract for a lifetime relationship I gave serious thought to exactly the kind of person I wanted to attract. I wrote a list of the qualities I was seeking in a spouse. I carried this list in my pocket. That was my Dream Board then! At a very young age I believed if you knew what you wanted in life and focused in that direction it would show up!
The next thing that I did was pray that I would make the right choice in finding a spouse. My office was close to a Church that I visited frequently to attend Mass. I had no idea the person with whom I would be going on a blind date was at the same Church at the same time I was there.
These two tools writing down what you want to attract and praying about it gets positive results. The success of this came last year when my wife and I celebration of our 50th Wedding Anniversary. This will be an event I will never forget as it offered us an opportunity to reflect on the many blessings we have in our life.
I am grateful for my answered prayers and my Dream Board manifestation. Because of that I am enjoying life with my lifetime best friend, my wife.