“They Must Be Crazy” – Josh Noem, Husband

When we got married, the priest in his homily noted that in several conversations he had about our wedding, people kept saying to him, “They must be crazy.” We got married the day after we finished our finals at the end of our senior year in college.

Our GPAs might have suffered slightly during that final semester, but it was a nice bookend to our college experience—we met during our first week on campus as freshmen.

We shared a small freshman seminar class together, and I knew when Stacey first walked in the door that I wanted to get to know her more. I remember being struck by her natural beauty and her courtesy. She seemed grounded and certain of who she was.

I finagled a way to talk to her outside of the classroom, and was fascinated by her. Stacey was a beach girl from Florida, I was from a small town in South Dakota—we were from different worlds. It was endlessly interesting to learn more about each other, our families, and our life experiences. We learned that we shared many values on a deep level—our faith, a commitment to family, a love of sports.

Looking back at some of my high school relationships, I remember realizing that within a few months, we had exhausted the growth that we were going to experience. The budding relationship with Stacey was different—it seemed like there was no end to the learning and growth that we were experiencing.

At the same time that I was growing in this relationship with Stacey, I was also wrestling with a call to the priesthood. I felt called to consider becoming a priest since I was in middle school. Friends and family had always told me I would make a good priest, and I knew that the Church needed priests. I felt an obligation to explore the possibility of a religious vocation.

Stacey was aware of my discernment, and displayed heroic patience in walking with me as I tried to figure out God’s will for my life. By the time we were juniors, we knew that our relationship could be leading towards marriage. Before I committed to that, I felt like I needed to resolve this question about the priesthood. I set aside Christmas break to reflect and pray about it, and experienced an important movement during those weeks.

Stacey and I had a phone conversation one night about this decision. She told me that she was willing to let me go if that’s what it took for me to be happy. That selflessness struck me and stayed with me after we had hung up. I was full of anxiety about making the wrong choice. What if I chose the wrong path? I didn’t know how to make a decision.

I remember being at my wit’s end. I was curled in the fetal position on my bed, frustrated, angry, confused—I was stuck. Then I recalled Stacey’s words—that she was willing to let me go if that’s what it took for me to be happy. That selflessness suddenly stood out to me as a way through this. I realized I didn’t have to figure this out for myself—I just needed to be willing to follow where I was being led.

It was a moment of grace that allowed me to place my life in God’s hands. I knew that I would find my deepest happiness when I was doing that for which God created me. I decided to let go of trying to figure it out on my own, and to align my will with whatever God had in store for me.

A tremendous sense of peace and relief filled me. It felt like a ton of pressure had lifted. Instead of struggling to figure out how to construct a happy life for myself, I felt free to simply follow where God was leading. That freedom was a crucial aspect to my discernment—it allowed me to set aside all that I was grasping and clutching so tightly and to see everything with balance and an open hand. In itself, it didn’t give me a clear answer to my questions, but it did give me the freedom to discover it.

I continued to talk with trusted mentors. One conversation with a priest helped me to see that my sense of being called to the priesthood was really a strong sense of obligation and responsibility. I knew the Church needed priests; I thought I would make a good priest; therefore, I should become a priest. That was logical.

On the other hand, though, I was absolutely thriving in this relationship with Stacey. It was enthralling and exciting, and I was growing as a person. Why would God place me in this relationship, which was a clear source of new life and energy, and call me away from it?

Two things became clear to me: First, I understood that what I heard as a call to the priesthood was my own voice projecting itself into a vacuum. Second, I was convinced that I would become a better man sharing life with Stacey. In the end, the choice was easy.

I remain convinced that this is God’s path for me. I am still becoming a better man with Stacey’s help. And after 16 years of marriage, we are still not done learning and growing together—there is always more to discover about our relationship.

Again, I have to thank my wife for her patience—she would have been well within her rights to say, “I told you so!” She knew I had to figure this out for myself, and she stuck with me, which was a brave thing to do. Having invested herself in our relationship, she put herself at great risk to let me explore the possibility of walking away from it. Her patience made us both better.

So we set a date, struggled through our final senior projects, and had a great party with all of our friends and family. Were we crazy? By the standards of the wider culture, we were out of our minds. From our faith perspective, however, it seemed like common sense. We were ready to capitalize on the one certainty we had established during our college years: we had discerned a call towards marriage. We knew that we could figure everything else out together.

Josh and Stacey Noem have been married for 16 years and have three children. They write of their experience of marriage and family life in the Happily Even After blog.

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Amanda Mortus (to be Amanda Sloan), Wife

St. Therese is often credited with saying, “My vocation is love!” In reality, we all have a vocation to love, but that love manifests itself differently in different vocations. St. Therese, one of my all-time favorite saints, had a vocation to the religious life. I have a vocation to married life.St. Therese of Lisieux

Marriage, ever since a young age, has been written on my heart, though realizing it and accepting it was a much longer road. In high school I began to feel a pull to religious life. I’d been on a number of retreats and was, in a radical way, ready to say ‘yes’ to whatever Jesus called me to. I longed for Him so deeply that marriage to Him in religious life seemed to be the only logical choice. He was (and is) the one my heart loves. I went to college to study theology with the pull towards religious life on my heart.

College life was different and wonderful, and over my time in college my desire for religious life faded and was replaced by a deep desire for marriage. I spent time with different orders in college and, while they were inspiring and beautiful, I never felt called to join them. I actually became fairly convinced that I’d meet my husband while I was in college. Graduation came and went without a ring on my finger or a serious relationship to show, and I returned home to Colorado. I dated a few guys briefly after graduation, and after one serious relationship ended I felt pretty lost. I went on another retreat and felt God pulling me towards religious life in a big, big way. I started meeting with a spiritual director and researched more orders than I can even list.

A few weeks after I started meeting with a spiritual director, a wonderful and enchanting man came along and wanted to court me. Things started off splendidly but slowly got worse, more dramatic, and trying over time. Despite promises of an engagement, things between us ended. A friend had asked me a few days before the break-up (which I did not see coming) what I would do if we broke up. I clearly remember telling her, “I’d probably go crazy for a few months, drink, party and go nuts, and then I’d join a convent.” I meant it.

A few days later we broke up, but instead of going crazy, I turned to Mass. I started going nearly every day. Soon I took up praying the rosary daily as well. In a sense I did go crazy: crazy for the Eucharist. Heartbreak plunged me deep into the heart of God, seeking Him for healing, consolation and peace. It was in that deep time of prayer and throwing myself at God – the exact place I’d been unconsciously hiding from – that my vocation to marriage was confirmed. Marriage had always been on my heart, and in truth, running to religious life was really me running away from the pains and heartache of dating. It was in adoration one night that I felt God say to me, “I see your desire for religious life and I love that you are willing to give Me everything, but you and I both know that you deeply desire marriage – and that is where I need you. Go.” It was a beautiful moment I’ll never forget when, once and for all, He wrote my vocation on my heart so deeply that there was no more denying it, no more running it, no more fearing that He wouldn’t bring it about when the time was right.Amanda (Mortus) Sloan

In fact, it wasn’t long after that night that I began dating my fiance Anthony. We dated for seven months before he proposed at the National Shrine of St. Therese (who has been a monumental part of our relationship) and we are going to be married on May 31, 2014. God is faithful and once I stopped running away from the potential pain of a break-up, He showed me my vocation, how deeply He desires to bring about the fulfillment of my marital vocation, and the ways that a vocation to married life can and should bring about my sainthood.

Amanda Mortus blogs at worthy of Agape. Photo of St. Therese is in the public domain. Engagement photo by Irving Photography.