Hello, old friend

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 3: Wedding of Autumn Jones and Jacob Hartley at Holy Ghost Catholic Church on September 3, 2022, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Daniel Petty/A&D Creative)

Where these waters flow they refresh; everything lives where the river goes

Ezekiel 47:9

Hello, old friend,

It’s been about 18 months since I last wrote a “Faithful Writer” chapter. It’s not that I didn’t want to write, but I felt for some months now that I was either incapable of personal writing or at war with what I wanted to write about. Should I tell the story of leaving the classroom after five years? What about the story of winding up in a news agency where racism and bigotry prevailed as the only consistent ethic? Either of these might be novels in themselves, and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with all of the information I held onto. 

Instead, I entered a rather quiet period of my contemplative life, and therefore my writing life. It was a stillness that forced me to go deeper in my prayer and discernment, all while my exterior life was anything but still. Between my last installment and this one, I got married, bought a house, changed jobs (twice), rescued a puppy, found a new parish home, and experienced the sale of my now-husband’s company. The stillness, however, allowed us to adapt to each change with humility and grace. 

Let’s spend a few minutes on the wedding… 

Jacob and I entered the marriage preparation process in September 2021, so by the time I walked down the aisle toward him and our new life together, we had spent nearly a year preparing for marriage in the context of the Church. It was a beautiful experience and one we wish for everyone to experience if marriage is in your future. The process reminded us that we were not preparing for a one-day party, but for a lifetime of joys and sorrows together. 

This is unlike anything we see in today’s society when it comes to weddings. Pick up the latest edition of Brides Magazine or scroll through wedding social media accounts, and 99% of the time it’s about decorations, expenses, and making your ceremony “Instagram worthy.” The very idea of planning a wedding today is more concerned with having all of the material goods to create the “perfect image,” than it is about preparing yourself to care for the soul of the other human being. 

We learned very early on that what mattered most was that we would be standing together before God, with a cloud of witnesses, as we professed our vows and our love for one another. This gave us the freedom to let go of temporal things. Flower arrangements? Let the florist pick. Cake? I’m sure the bakery will make something nice. Hem length for the bridesmaids dresses? Trust the seamstresses. Hairstyles and makeup? Do something that makes you feel beautiful (because, you ARE beautiful). 

If I could give newly-engaged couples a word of advice it would be to make sure you are discussing the important topics, like faith, finances, childbearing, loss, commitment and sacrifice, more than you are talking about colors and paper goods. Then, enter into your wedding day with joy—not because the decorations turned out the way you wanted them to, but because you are with your beloved with whom you will build a life together. 

One thing the priest on our marriage prep retreat reiterated was to keep your life in the right order—God first, spouse second, children third—and to revisit this concept frequently. Gift your spouse the time to be with God. Remember to date your spouse even when children come along. Welcome children and prepare them to go out as witnesses to the world. 

We pray that each couple preparing for marriage has the opportunity to grow in these capacities as they get ready for their own celebration, and we’re available to walk with other couples in the process. (There might be a book or a ministry on this topic in my future…)

At each turning point this past year and a half, some of them quite significant, I had two very clear choices: 1) Fight it, control it and determine the outcome, or 2) Surrender to God’s plan for what happens next. The first choice assumes that we are in the driver’s seat, that we manifest our outcome, and that if we are unhappy with the outcome, all the more reason to self-help your way out of it. The second choice, though often much more frightening, asks us to relinquish control and to trust that, whatever the outcome may be, that it is for the greater glory of God. 

To surrender means to give God “access to every part of our lives,” and to allow God to be the Lord of our lives. 

When Jacob and I were able to surrender to God’s plan for our wedding, we were abundantly blessed with graces we would never have dreamed up on our own. When I surrendered my idea of where I was going to end up professionally this year, God opened the door for not just one, but two incredible opportunities to choose from. As I work to surrender this reawakening to write, God can and will do incredible things with the words I put on a page. 

Thank you for allowing me to take up a little bit of space in your inbox, and for journeying with me again. 

The Faithful Writer

By Autumn (Jones) Hartley

Writer. Educator. Social Media Strategist. Gonzaga ’10 (B.Ed.), CU-Boulder ’14 (M.A. Journalism).

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