Basketball and the Grace of Marriage, available at: ForYourMarriage.org


Happily Even After

Basketball and the Grace of Marriage


June 7, 2010

Joshua and I are both basketball players.  Among other things.  It may sound weird to say as 30-somthings, but it is a real part of each of our identities and it actually played a fairly significant role in our getting to know one another early in our relationship.

See, we were both high school basketball players on highly successful teams.  I hate to have to actually go here, but for the sake of completeness:  Josh’s high school team was state champion in South Dakota for years and years in a row.  My high school team played in the final four in Florida 2 out of my 4 years.  My junior year we played for the championship.

Now, here is the first insight into Joshua and me.  His team won the championship game and my team came in second.  Don’t think that EVER escapes mentioning in our household.  Also, of note, is that his team was first in SOUTH DAKOTA.  They only have one Congressional Representative!  Not a big pool of competition if you know what I mean.  My team came in second in the hugely populous state of Florida.  Not too shabby and I think those two facts together even the playing field, so to speak. 

We were both role players on teams that functioned as strong units.  I think that has all kind of impact on how we can be so different and still able to work so well together.  We get the concept of team.  We get what it means to work hard everyday so that we have what it takes in crunch time.

I mentioned this played a fairly significant role in getting to know each other.  Well, Joshua and I had two classes together our freshman year of college.  One huge chemistry class and one very intimate seminar.  We took advantage of the opportunity to “study together” for the chemistry class, but also started meeting to play basketball together early in the mornings before seminar.  1-on-1 at 8am. 

It is a complete testament to how interested in Joshua I was that I woke up that early, walked all the way across campus and played 1-on-1 of all things. 

I was basically a pretty shy girl when it came to basketball.  I loved the team aspect and giving it everything I had, but I was never a 1-on-1 kind of girl, much to my sweet father’s chagrin.  But for these morning outings, I dug deep and did my best.

Which makes me think back to the night before our wedding.  We had a priest say a vigil mass just for the two of us.  He mentioned in his homily that we should be on the look out for special graces that come to us through the Sacrament of Marriage.  Special gifts that God gives us along with the gift of grace and one another.

I have thought of that from time to time over the years, and it is only in the last several months that I realize what one of the graces of my marriage has been for me as an individual.  I think it started back on those mornings we were playing 1-on-1.  My grace is confidence.

I have become a much more confident person through my relationship with Joshua.  I project an image of confidence that did not exist in me prior to our relationship.  I would NOT have stepped on a court to play head to head with someone before I met him, and certainly not against a boy.  But with Joshua, and for Joshua, I did.

Reader Comments (2)

  • Hi guys! I am engaged so I’ve been checking out this website, and I was so surprised to see you on it! I am a second year JV in Missoula and I heard you speak at orientation this past year. I’m engaged to one of my housemates that I met during my first year of JVC in Spokane. We’re getting married this summer. I was encouraged to hear that you had a non-traditional marriage timeline. I’ve heard plenty of “I can’t believe you are getting married right after JVC!” I’m curious if you thinking being JVs together impacted your marriage.
    Jackie

    jedeve
    • Hi Jackie,
      Congratulations on your engagement! Joshua and I DID find our time with JVC particularly formative as a couple. Generally speaking, post-graduate service is some of the only “lay formation” available outside a degree program. For us specifically, being from completely different types of families and completely different regions of the country, our JV experience helped us to be shaped in the same values and share an intensely formative experience. Our shared life in community made the experience of starting our own household pretty easy and very “intentional” as you can imagine :-)

      Stacey

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Restorative Niche Activities

Restorative Niche Activities

Winter is just sitting on top of us like a mean big brother who does not really care how “un-fun” the game has become. He is bigger than us and we just have to deal with it. I am an only child, so this is an entirely made-up scenario – but it seems plausible.

It is hard to wake up each day to another dark, cold morning, get children to school on slick roads or through snow, then off to work, only to pick up children, hope to get home before dark, make supper, do homework, bedtime routine, and then repeat. Granted, this is more or less what 75% of the year looks like, but somehow it is harder in February and March. As parents we can just feel devoid of energy and inspiration—empty.

That emptiness makes it very hard to be at out best for our children and our spouses.

We often tell ministry students, “You can’t minister from an empty cup,” meaning you have to attend to taking care of yourself and then minister from your overflow. Otherwise you are working from a deficit that will never be replaced (Bernard of Clairvaux).

In marriage and family life we do not always get the opportunity to fully attend to ourselves—to fill our cups. We rarely have the time and energy to exercise as much or even when we might want to; to pray as much, when, or even in the manner we might feel called; or to meet up with friends, go on retreat, or travel. We don’t even get to dictate our own sleep patterns!

One of the ways Joshua and I have begun to help one another in this regard is to carve out space for “restorative niche activities.” This is a phrase used by Matt Bloom, a sociologist whose research helps ministers flourish in ministry. It describes activities that meet two criteria: they are activities that we do well enough to pursue a sense of mastery; and they are activities that we do out of intrinsic motivation—simply for the joy we experience in the activity itself.

A variety of activities can be restorative, such as knitting, golf, painting, gardening, or model railroading. Bloom advises that for a restorative niche to really contribute to our flourishing, we need to engage in it regularly. Regularly, for him, means at least once a week.

Now if you are like me, one of the hardest parts of practicing restorative niche activities is just finding out what yours are. Josh’s is easy—baseball. He is part of an informal league that plays during summer, and he likes to make it to the batting cages when he can in the “off-season.”

I was happy to find an activity that suits the winter weather: ice-skating. I love playing on the ice. It is something that I do well enough that it is fun, and something that I would enjoy doing even better. When I am on the ice trying out new things, I totally lose track of time. That is one of the hallmarks of a true restorative niche—losing track of time.

This winter, Joshua has encouraged me to carve out a day or two each week to ice skate during the noon hour. It really is a lovely break from the day. It is refreshing in a way that has nothing to do with exercise and everything to do with clearing my mind and focusing on something for its own sake, not for a specific outcome.

The busy-ness of contemporary family life and its attendant stressors make it almost impossible not to be focused on goals and outcomes. We often need to plan our days out minute-by-minute so that everything fits. Our lives would be a mess without some sense of order and effort at planning and execution.

Restorative niche activities remind us how to play. How to just do something for its own sake and find ourselves in the fun of it. One of the ways Joshua and I support each other in marriage is by encouraging each other’s full flourishing. Just because the demands of parenting can easily become all-consuming does not mean that we should entirely lose our identity as individuals.

When we are whole in ourselves, when our “cups are full,” we are able to give not from a deficit but from our overflow. Such is the abundance of God’s love.


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