Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Wedding File

My roommate and I have gotten into the habit of sticking invitations we receive on our refrigerator and then taking them down as the events occur. Between the two of us, at one point earlier this year, we had four save-the-date cards, several bridal showers, I think six wedding invitations, a birthday party invite and at least one baby shower. A few of them are still there. Our fridge (and I'm not talking just the front, but parts of each side, as well) was, and is, crowded.

Once the events are over with, though, we have different ways of handling these little bits of formality. My roommate tends to throw the invitations away. But I don't do least not with the wedding invitations. This may sound completely ridiculous to you, but I put mine in what I've come to call The Wedding File.

I've had it for years now, stretching back to college. It's a blue accordion folder and it's filled (although not completely), with invitations I've received to the weddings of friends and family members over the years, along with some of the wedding programs. If I think a bridal shower invite is particularly neat, I might save it, too. A few good friend's baby announcements have also found a home there.

For example, my friend Marie sent out a pre-wedding events invitation for out-of-town guests that included a bowling night, and the invitation itself is a round bowling ball card. Liz's wedding program, in addition to listing members of the wedding party and the Mass parts, includes quotes about marriage and love from such disparate sources as Dr. Seuss and Pope John Paul II. Joe and Mary had a fall wedding, and their invitation is covered in bronze-colored leaves. The border on Amy's invitation are graceful raised calla lilies, the same flowers she carried as her bouquet. Some are very formal, printed on heavy cream-colored card stock. One or two, printed on home printers, reflect brides and grooms on a budget. Others are riots of colorful creativity. My friend Sabrina even printed her own postcard wedding invitations on the letterpress she stores in her garage.

I've saved them because, one day, if it's God's will, I might need to refer to them for ideas to help me put my own wedding invitation together. In fact, several friends have borrowed the file for reference purposes while planning their own weddings (in fact, after loaning The Wedding File to my best friend while she was planning her nuptials several years ago, I got it back with some extras: she'd inserted several invitations to weddings she'd been to).

A few days ago, though, after calling in my regrets to a bridal shower I can't attend (ironically, because it's the same day as a wedding I've already committed to) and almost immediately after mentally reminding myself to put the invitation into the file, I found myself thinking "You know, maybe I should just throw all those invitations out. I haven't needed them yet. Maybe I never will."

Later that night in talking to a friend (herself finalizing plans for her own wedding in the new year), I told her about my random thought. And she quickly said, "Oh, no, keep it! It will come in so handy." She went on to say she wished she'd had something like it. "Although, you know, if you do toss it, you might find you need it not too long afterwards." Laughing, I joked that I should put it in the garbage immediately, and maybe I'd meet someone sooner.

After a little bit of thought, though, I decided to keep it. Yes, I'm a bit of a pack rat (I'll admit, it runs in my family), and some people would probably tease me if they found out I had such a thing. And yes, at some point, possibly during a move, I will get rid of the file and it's contents. But in the mean time, the file is also a time capsule; a reminder of good times and friendships, some of very long standing. There's a little bit of regret, mixed in, for some of the friendships that have faded, but overall, the file is a representation of so much love. Keeping it appeals to my romantic, hopeful nature, and I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

"What are you, then, my God?"

I've just started reading St. Augustine's Confessions, and although I'm not very far into it (four pages. I did say not very :) ), I am finding myself amazed, most particularly at this point by the following utterly contradictory yet beautiful description of God: 

"What are you, then, my God? What are you, I ask, but the Lord God? For who else is lord except the Lord, or who is god if not our God? You are most high, excellent, most powerful, omnipotent, supremely merciful and supremely just, most hidden yet intimately present, infinitely beautiful and infinitely strong, steadfast yet elusive, unchanging yourself though you control the change in all things, never new, never old, renewing all things yet wearing down the proud though they know it not; ever active, ever at rest, gathering while knowing no need, supporting and filling and guarding, creating and nurturing and perfecting, seeking although you lack nothing. You love without frenzy, you are jealous yet secure, you regret without sadness, you grow angry yet remain tranquil, you alter your works but never your plan; you take back what you find although you never lost it; you are never in need yet you rejoice in your gains, never avaricious yet you demand profits. You allow us to pay you more than you demand, and so you become our debtor, yet which of us possesses anything that does not already belong to you? You owe us nothing, yet you pay your debts; you write off our debts to you, yet lose nothing thereby."
                                                         - St. Augustine, Confessions, Book One 4,4.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

On vanity and love

Two things God has been trying to work on in me recently are vanity and love of self. I know that sounds a bit conflicting, but bear with me.

Recently, while on vacation, I went to an event for some friends. While I was in town, I let them copy the event photos from my camera's memory card so they would have them, fully intending to post them to my own Facebook page soon.

But since I was on vacation, my Internet availability was spotty for a while. Before I knew it, one of my friends, in excitement, posted all of my photos to her page and tagged me in them before I could get to it. And I'm ashamed to say I threw a little tantrum about it. I knew as I was venting to my best friend how stupid and petty I sounded, but control had been wrested from me. There were photos of myself that I wouldn't have posted at all, much less tagged, because I felt I looked fat in them. Or others that had too much light exposure, so I would have tried to work them somehow, or cropped, before posting.

"What if some hot guy sees them and thinks I'm ugly?" I wailed to my best friend. "And I can't post them now because they'll be duplicated and people will think I'm stupid for posting photos that are already up," I added, pouting.

My very sensible best friend proceeded to talk me off the proverbial ledge.

"What hot guy are you thinking of?"

"I don't know. But there might be one."

"Ok, let's say there is a hot guy. Do you think his, or anyone's, first thought when looking at these pictures will be to immediately think 'Who's that fat girl'?"


"Of course not! And who looks through all of someone else's photos anyway? There will be plenty of people who haven't seen them. Just post them again."

"Ok, I guess."

Ultimately I realized how juvenile I was about it -- so vain to think that what I post is so interesting to every single one of the people who are my Facebook friends -- and let the issue go entirely. But as my vacation continued, I found myself asking the friend I was traveling with to -- here and there -- retake certain snapshots because I didn't like the original picture and thought wouldn't look good online. And that stopped me short. But Facebook wasn't ultimately the culprit. Sure, social media can feed the fire, but it was really the devil, whispering in my ear that I'm not good enough, that society is right and that only the thin are beautiful.

Generally pretty athletic all my life, I have struggled with my weight for years, most recently because of a hormone imbalance that makes it really hard for me to keep weight off. I can do it, and have done, working my way several years ago to losing 67 pounds. But it plagues me that, after succeeding so well, I managed to backslide and regain 30 of them. Work was stressful, I was (and still am) there a lot, my gym changed classes and some instructors left. Then there were months I didn't get to the gym at all, and my smaller clothes are now in Rubbermaid bins under my bed. Some days it feels like defeat, but at the same time I'm determined not to let it become one. It will be a challenge to regain that ground, but I know I can do it again.

The Lord knows our weaknesses. I sometimes forget to offer them to Him, to ask for His help, thinking I can do it all on my own. And that's the point where I usually trip up. For you it might not be weight. You might think you're too tall, or too short, or you hate your ears/nose/thighs/feet...insert any feature. It is so hard for us as women to love ourselves for who we are, or to think that anyone else, any man even, could possibly find us lovable and attractive, too.

And yet God created us in His image. It is something I, sadly, have a tendency to forget. I am His child, as are you. His love is always with me. God reminds me, with His grace, that I am so much more than a number on a scale. I am a daughter, sister, cousin, friend, and godmother, someone who's ability to love and comfort and laugh and sing and listen and advise and do my job well has absolutely nothing to do with that number. Should I try to be healthy? Of course. But should I let what size jeans I'm wearing determine my worth? Never.