Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Chicago + Counting Our Blessings

+JMJ+

As I briefly mentioned in my Quick Takes volume one and two entries, Michael and I just went on a weekend trip to Chicago which was both fun and nostalgic. For those of you that are new to our love story, we are no strangers to Chi-town! After meeting in my college town/his previous job location in Indiana and spending time together for less than a month the summer after I graduated, I moved away to complete a year of volunteer service and our long distance relationship began. Basically our entire dating relationship and all but the last 2 months of our engagement (when I was back at my parents' in Indiana) took place while I was living in Chicago for a year.

In other words, Michael made countless trips to see me in Chicago last year as I was a volunteer with no car or real financial means to visit him (though I did manage to take a few MegaBus trips to see him once he took a new job in Ann Arbor). Thank God that he did - because without all of the traveling sacrifices he made (he now hates driving into Chicago and I don't blame him!) for our relationship, who knows if we would already be married and living the blessed lives we currently are?

Clearly the weekend was a mixture of emotions as we revisited and recounted so many of the experiences we shared last year while I served as a volunteer - the good and the bad. I kept thinking over and over to myself that I am so blessed to have had Michael by my side as I lived through such a formative year. I honestly don't know how I would have described all that I experienced in Chicago to someone if they hadn't lived through it with me, sharing in my joys, struggles, accomplishments, frustrations, and everything else that came hand in hand with working for a domestic violence agency, receiving mere pennies as compensation, safely navigating inner city life, living in an intentional faith community, and more. All of this left me feeling beyond blessed each time I reflected on how much we've experienced and grown together personally and spiritually in less than two years time. God has been so good to us.

Samples of our rainy-day Chicago engagement photo shoot in April 2012. Brian Powell Photography.

This past weekend we took full advantage of some of the adventures we didn't have time to go on last year and made sure to revisit a couple places we can't get enough of. It was a full weekend with a trip to the Adler Planetarium, walking the Magnificent Mile, watching the sun go down from the 96th floor of the Hancock tower, getting the total experience of Shedd Aquarium, dining at our favorite place in Chinatown, etc. In our free time we enjoyed the amazing company of a handful of dear friends, including one of my very favorite newlywed couples (they were married 2 months before us) that so generously hosted us at their place during our stay.

Planetarium adventures, downtown Chicago at night, some beluga whales, and us

As if we weren't feeling blessed, grateful, and overjoyed enough after such a beautiful 3-day weekend trip, God managed to put one last bit of icing on the cake. Because we opted to sleep in Sunday morning we planned to attend the 6pm Mass at our parish back in Michigan; unfortunately we didn't make it back quite in time for me to feel comfortable walking in when we would have so we made new plans to attend a Mass even later at a different parish. I had never been to church there and thought it might be interesting and believe me when I say it was interesting. I won't spend too much time going into details about how the Mass we attended was in a basement room (even though they have a chapel upstairs) that had the alter at the back of the room behind the chairs so we all had to walk and stand in a semi-circle for the Eucharistic liturgy - and the handful of other unexpected twists (like inviting parishioners to speak as part of the homily)...because all of this certainly wasn't the icing on the cake I was talking about. This next part is: 

After we managed to escape the oddities of everything we had experienced (I kept repeating to myself, "Jesus is here, that's all that matters") we made it home and had a great discussion about how much we love our parish here. Not only that, but this other church allowed Michael to witness firsthand and more fully understand the quality of education he had received last year in his RCIA classes at our parish (he entered the Church on Easter Vigil 2012). My heart leaped with joy as he shared with me how grateful he was that I had pushed him toward certain churches as he searched for a place to learn about Catholicism. At the time, as a non-Catholic, he had assumed every Catholic Church would teach you the same things and present the faith in the same manner (because in an ideal world they should), but now he can see how noticeably different the curriculum would have been had he gone elsewhere in town. He spoke about how significant it is to have a curriculum that doesn't water things down, fully presents the theology and doctrine in all its orthodoxy, and thus gives newcomers the opportunity to more fully and honestly discern if the Catholic Church is right for them or not. Praise God that he can now recognize how blessed he was as he went through his faith formation here!  

Our parish in Ann Arbor: St. Thomas the Apostle. Photo source.

Not only did we have a fantastic long weekend trip together, but upon returning home we were able to count even more blessings that God has given us, especially in our faith lives. I'd say that makes for one memorable weekend.

“The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but the thankful heart will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings.”
-Henry Ward Beecher

4 comments:

  1. when did you get bangs?! SO CUTE. also St. Thomas is beautiful!! is it pretty inside too?!

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    1. Haha, I just realized you probably never knew me in college when I had bangs like this because it was my sophomore year.... Anyway, I just got my hair cut a week ago (right before we went to Chicago). And yes, St. Thomas is very nice inside, too! :)

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  2. BABY BUMP!!!! I totally see it!!!!!! Helllooooooooooo, little niece or nephew.

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    1. LOL I think what you're referring to is my coat hanging over my arm in front of my stomach (in the planetarium picture?).... However, I DO have a small baby bump that is definitely noticeable when I wear form-fitting shirts (except to strangers, who are I believe are still oblivious). :) And when we come visit you I imagine it will only be more noticeable. :D

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