by Nathan & Nancy Vande Hey
“Hatred stirs up disputes, but love covers all offenses.” (Proverbs 10:12) This passage has been a creed in our marriage. We posted it on our bathroom mirror. We reflect on its wisdom and can see the truth of it in our lives.
We believe that God gives us what we need, not always what we want. When we first met in Miss Werner’s 9th grade English class, it was not love at first sight. In fact, we really did not like each other very much. But knowing that God has a sense of humor and a knack of getting what He wants, three years later we were good friends. Within a year we were dating with thoughts of marriage.
We have always been grateful for the time of friendship before either one of us considered dating each other. We created a bond during our friendship based on mutual respect, trust, open communication and fun. Those elements have carried us through our three-year marriage.
As we prepared for our wedding, we were not consciously preparing for our marriage; God took on that task.
When we entered into our official marriage preparation stage through Holy Cross Parish, Kaukauna, we decided to attend an Engaged Encounter weekend. During an Engaged Encounter, couples give talks about the various areas of married life like finances, communication, sex, children, and running a household. We felt confident that we had many good skills to bring into our marriage, but we also acknowledged there was room to grow.
We went to different colleges, Nathan attended St. Norbert College and Nancy attended UW-Madison. Although our phone bills were high and we kept the mail carriers busy, we learned how to communicate our feelings, hopes and fears to each other.
We appreciated the advice many of the married couples that worked our Engaged Encounter gave us. In particular, we both remembered the theme that our marriage would take dedication, hard work and sacrifice.
Once the honeymoon was over, we realized that advice was wise. We realized how selfish we really were once we were married. (Now with two children this lesson surfaces daily.) Letting go of our own desires for the good of the other person has become a part of our lives, even against our wills sometimes.
Decisions as big as career moves and buying a home and as small as what to eat for dinner have called the two of us to sacrifice. Each day we grow to love and appreciate each other more, making all these sacrifices worthwhile.
Another essential element we remember Fr. Phil Hoffman and the married couples stressing during our Engaged Encounter was prayer. We had tried to pray together when we dated, but as the stresses of marriage increased so did our desire to pray together.
We still are not satisfied with our prayer life together, but we know how much it has strengthened our marriage already. We have entrusted our family into St. Joseph’s care and thank him for helping us find Nathan’s great job and our first home. We try to thank God daily for his many blessings and work hard to be good stewards of his gifts.
One fruit of this prayer life is to see the seeds of faith developing in our small children. Marie, our toddler, loves to recite the Our Father and Hail Mary at bedtime. To hear her remark, “I love Jesus,” warms our hearts. Even Peter, who just turned one, likes to dip his hand in holy water and try to do the sign of the cross.
Overall we were grateful that during our Engaged Encounter we discussed details about marriage that we had not considered before. This experience helped us plan how we would tackle many of the issues couples face.
Fr. Jack Mularkey, pastor of Holy Cross parish, completed our marriage preparation. The FOCUS test he administered confirmed what we already felt; our relationship was strong and we would be good spouses to each other.
We see marriage preparation as an important step for engaged couples. It is a perfect forum to address serious issues that are not always addressed from the pulpit, particularly sexual morality including premarital sex and contraception. The discreet atmosphere of marriage preparation programs is the ideal setting to explain the Catholic Church’s teaching and the love of the Father behind it.
As we heard in last week’s gospel, God gives us the law so that we have life. In our marriage, the more we try to align ourselves with God’s will the better life becomes. According to our culture we may be crazy, but that is fine with us. God has always taken better care of us than we have when we’ve tried to live like the world tells us.
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