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Every little thing

Originally Appeared in : 9923-11/7/19

“If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” — Mother Teresa
Last weekend, Paul and I had the honor of speaking to a group of engaged couples getting ready to be married. It was the annual Engaged Encounter at our parish, and the same awesome people who organize it (great job, Keith and Chris) invited us back again.

 

We first spoke at one of these marriage prep weekends a while back, when our good friend Father John Johnson asked if we would help at his parish. Soon after that, we were invited to speak at our own parish, and we have been doing this ever since.

 

It was an interesting time, the first few years we gave this talk. Paul and I were actually in the really intense season of managing lots of little kids, and I’m afraid my talks focused on things like “the husband should always ask ‘what can I do to help’ the minute he walks in the door,” along with the recurring sentiment “this too shall pass.”

 

It’s not that those years weren’t blissful and fun. It’s not that they feel as though they weren’t.

 

No really, they were. They were really sweet and wonderful and so, so blessed. But also really hard at times, the practicalities of life with lots of small children.

 

Fast forward and now we give a talk not as a couple about 10 years in (with four small children) but as one celebrating 25 years of marriage, and the youngest of our six children is nine. It’s amazing to be at this stage of the game, just like that.

 

I was joking with Paul, on our way downtown to speak to those couples, how much our talk has changed over the years. I used to have an elaborate list of all the tricks of the trade to make marriage wonderful and awesome. I had stories to share and insights and things I had learned over the years that worked well for us.

 

And while I wouldn’t necessarily change those points, I think as time moves on I can simplify that list. I still elaborate, but it gets a little more distilled every year. It’s basically:
Be kind to one another.

 

Love Jesus, and in loving him you will better love your spouse.

 

Recognize the incredible gift of your vocation to marriage. Through your marriage, you are changing the world.

 

Deal with your stuff. Confess your sins, and get help for your struggles. Get a wise older couple or therapy or a spiritual director. Don’t try to do it alone. You need help, so get help from smart people.

 

“Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?” Those words, spoken to me years ago by Father Brett Brannen, have stayed with me and been a source of inspiration on days when I really, really would prefer to be petty. But that’s not one of the options, so I try to choose happiness.

 

In marriage, every little thing really does matter. The devil is in the details — so pay attention to the little ways you can love and let go and get things right. That will add up to good things.

 

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in our years of marriage is that paying attention to the small details of everyday life matters more than sitting back and waiting for the big stuff to hit the fan. You can sit around and be prepared for a catastrophe while losing ground in the tiny battles of dying to self and giving all that you have.

 

And on this particular evening, when I reflect on being out of the season of tiny, little kids and also learning valuable lessons as the years go by, I think about the actual evening itself. An evening where I fielded a phone call from one of my college boys going through some significant stuff, and Paul helped Isabel study for a history test. We plunged a stopped up toilet and unloaded the dishwasher and switched over the laundry. We discussed the mundane and the funny and everything in between — and all of it together adds up to a beautiful life.

 

Rachel Balducci is a wife and mother of six. She and her husband Paul are members of Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Augusta, GA. Her latest book, Make My Life Simple, is available on Amazon.

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