On the Night You Were Born

 

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If you were to have told me a year ago that exactly one year from now I would be a Mom, writing a blog post during one of my sons many midnight feedings, I wouldn’t have believed you.

But…. here I am. Writing this blog as I nurse my son at 12:30AM.

As some of you may recall- the news that my husband and I were expecting came as quite the shock. This was due largely because we knew that this little one was a wedding night baby. If you would like to read that story- click here.

Pregnancy is nothing short of a miracle. At the very earliest stage my little Theo was the size of a poppy seed— a POPPY SEED. That amazes me when I look at his little face and all the features that make it up. He is a m i r a c l e.


I loved being pregnant! Watching the belly grow and feeling my baby move inside of me was something that I will forever cherish and something that is indescribable. Although I loved being pregnant it didn’t mean that it was always easy. There was the lack of energy, nauseousness, and lack of mobility. Near the end of my pregnancy I was waddling so bad- I looked like a duck.

6 weeks before our due date my older sister gave birth to my little nephew, Leo. I had been through the experience before of waiting in the waiting room for my sisters to have their babies but this time felt very different. This time I was imagining myself going through the same experience so every time I saw my sister in pain I knew what was awaiting me in 6 weeks. Although watching my sister go through so much pain wasn’t fun, getting to see the end result and getting to hold my nephew and see his beautiful little face was something so incredibly amazing. I also knew THAT feeling awaited me in 6 weeks which was far more exciting than the pain.

The weeks came and went and same with our due date.

No baby yet.

This is totally normal for first time Mom’s and I was actually preparing myself throughout the entire pregnancy that I would at least be 41 weeks pregnant before I would have this baby.


Much to my surprise only one day after our due date, I went into labor.

The pain was real but I was ready. I truly felt that the Holy Spirit was helping me fight the contractions as much as I could throughout the night and to do it with a smile. With every contraction, I offered up a prayer for a family member or friend with specific intentions. Some contractions I just stared at my flash cards with the names and intentions of those individuals and tried to think of nothing else but gratitude that I was given the opportunity to suffer for them.

Giving birth to Theo was by far the hardest thing I have ever done.

I pushed for 3 1/2 hours before I heard the cry of my sweet boy and he was placed on my chest.


During the Mass there’s a particular part of the consecration that I have grown to appreciate more and more. The moment when the priest repeats the words of Jesus in saying, “this is my body given up for you.”

I love it even more now as I cradle my newborn son.

See, I never understood the kind of love that drew Christ to the cross – until now.

Labor and delivery was beautiful, difficult, and ultimately a little scary. After I had finally given birth to Theo, I needed only to look at my midwifes face to know that something was wrong. I was bleeding…. bad.

I had suffered not only a pretty bad tear but also what is called, “postpartum hemorrhage”. This is when a women suffers an immense amount of blood loss in labor and actually is the primary reason for maternal death (mother dying during labor) now-a-days. I didn’t know the severity of my condition until I saw the look on my family members faces when they saw me.


As I cradle this beautiful- BEAUTIFUL- gift of God (meaning behind the name Theodore), I can’t help but think of the words the Christ says, “this is my body given up for you….”

I always knew that I would give my life for my child but never knew how much my of my body I would have to give up. From the weight gain, stretch marks, and overall occasional discomfort- my child needed every bit of me and I wouldn’t change a single thing. I would do it over and over again.

A mother’s love is unlike anything in the world and in Christ’s words I see a tiny reflection of myself. I would give my body, my everything, up for my child.

To end this post (which has taken me f o r e v e r to write due to the nature of Motherhood) I want to steal a few lines from my favorite book that I read to Theo…

“For never before in story or rhyme (not even once upon a time) has the world ever known a you, my friend, and it never will, not ever again…

Heaven blew every trumpet and played every horn on the wonderful, marvelous night you were born.” (On the Night You Were Born. Nancy Tillman)

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That One Perfect Day

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(photo courtesy of Joshua Paul Photography)

On June 18th, I married my favorite person. We had waited, prayed, and hoped that the day would come and when it finally did- it was completely surreal.

I remember the stress and worries about all the fine details on the night of the rehearsal but waking up on that beautiful (and HOT) Saturday morning I felt nothing but complete and total peace. I knew that God was with me, strengthening me, and about ready to change my entire life. It was so exciting!

This day- this ONE day- literally changed my entire life.


Before I get into that, I want to talk about something that we had been preparing for throughout our entire engagement, taking classes on, and having SO many conversations about- natural family planning. 

The Catholic Church has such a beautiful reflection on sexuality, marriage, and family planning but many, who don’t know the logic behind the church’s teachings, view the church’s teaching as a strict “no you can’t do this, no you can’t do that, NO NO NO.”

It’s true that the Church is all about abstaining from sex until marriage and is it true that the Church is strictly against the use of any contraceptives. What many don’t know is that the church has those beliefs not to say “no” but to give a more profoundly beautiful “yes” to life and authentic love.

Abstinence is not designed to torment the couple but rather empty themselves in service to one another and in some way die to themselves in their sacrifice. Much like what Christ did on the cross — all for the sake of love. We want to enter into marriage knowing that our beloved will be given all  of   us, all of our brokenness and vulnerability. Also, the physical act of “consummating” ones marriage is a physical reality of what happened during the couples marriage ceremony. In the exchanging of the rings, saying of the vows, and nuptial blessing the couple becomes one. In the same way, the couple physically becomes one as a physical sign of their commitment to each other and their vows. This is A LOT to take on before you have actually committed to one another in marriage! Saving that intimacy isn’t a way of torment but rather a way to ensure the couples center on Christ, His mission, and loving the way Christ loved… which was (and still is) through sacrifice.

During our vows, Tim and I promised to uphold all of the teachings of the church, raise our family according to the church, and accept children lovingly and freely. On the day of our wedding the reality of that last phrase didn’t really hit me until later- “accept children lovingly and freely”. 

I tell all of my students whenever we talk about theology of the body and marriage that marriage has two purposes: babies and bonding. As a couple we are living out the vocation of marriage in being intimate with one another but we also are living out our vocation by being open to the will of the Father in regards to children.

Tim and I were the last of 3 other couples to get married in 5 weeks- oh man- it was a busy few weeks! We were able to witness the marriages of many close friends and obviously had the opportunity to be engaged at the same time.

While being engaged with 3 other holy and beautiful couples- it came with its challenges. Many times all of us would sit and talk about our classes, how we are preparing through prayer, and yes– natural family planning. The other couples were practicing the ‘creighton’ family planning method while Tim and I were practicing the ‘sympto-thermal’ method. This brought up some really fruitful and interesting discussions.

All four couples, including us, had planned on waiting at least a year or two before starting our families. You know that thing about what God does when you make plans? Yep, He laughs.

The church, in her wisdom, gives us natural (and contraceptive free) methods to plan our family along with prayer and discernment from Our Lord. Natural family planning is very effective when used correctly and also allows for God’s will. God’s will can be for the couple to have a child unexpectedly or for the couple to wait, in joyful anticipation, for their family to grow. Natural family planning is all about teaching love and responsibility. 

Unfortunately, I felt that many discussions I had with other Catholic couples about the upcoming wedding day and plans for a family seemed to center on fear of pregnancy. All the women were charting and plotting when the potential ovulation date would be in relation to wedding dates. Many panicking at the thought of ovulating over the their wedding weekend. What I didn’t like about those conversations was the impression that the potential of a positive pregnancy test a few weeks later would be the ‘worst case scenario’. Are we even aware of how many women who would LOVE to be pregnant right now but maybe are not? Or those who continue to try and PRAY for that positive test?

As the weddings got closer, some women found out that they would in fact be ovulating either ON or close to their wedding date. Obviously this may present a challenge if you would like to both wait on starting your family AND consummate your marriage.

I was one of those women.

Many of us discussed and even prayerfully concerned what we would do- would we abstain on our wedding night to avoid pregnancy? Or would we consummate our marriage and “risk it”?


On June 18th, I have never felt the grace of God more in my entire life.

Our photographer and friend, Josh, had told us before the wedding that we should pray for all the graces of the sacrament on that day and that if we did that we would truly be able to FEEL them. Boy oh boy was he right…

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(photo courtesy of Joshua Paul Photography)

We could feel our Lord’s presence as we said “yes” to the many challenges, joys, and sufferings in our life together. We understood that it wasn’t just the two of us – but as Fulton Sheen has so eloquently put, “it takes THREE to get married”. We needed Our Lord on that day and (God willing) the many after.

Marriage is about WAY more than just us. We know this now more than ever.

We were stepping into an unknown territory but one that would fulfill our greatest desires in life and push us to become the best version of ourselves.

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(photo courtesy of Joshua Paul Photography)

True freedom relies in complete and utter trust in God’s will for your life. It is allowing God to be the writer of your story, and you the pen. True freedom lies in saying “yes” to Our Lord… together… and continuing to trust in His goodness.

On June 30th Tim and I, while on our honeymoon in Costa Rica, found out that we were expecting our first little one. I have never been filled with more fear or excitement.


On our wedding day we said “yes” to God’s plan for our lives and he provided us with the greatest gift we could ever receive — our first little baby.

My mother-in-law had a beautiful reflection on this gift by explaining that, “The greatest grace that a married couple can receive is the gift of a child. Therefore, the graces must truly have been flowing through your wedding to give you this tremendous gift.”

I have reflected on that statement so much in the past four months. Despite the fear, anxiety, and worry about our little one coming a little earlier than expected and having had only 12 solid hours of just Tim and I in our marriage- what an irreplaceable gift we have been given. Our baby is not ‘worst case scenario’ but rather ‘best case scenario’. After returning to the United States and telling our family, I was struck by an image I received while praying the rosary.

The image was of the visitation between Mary and Elizabeth but instead of Elizabeth being there- I was standing in front of Mary. She looked at me with such joy and just laid her hand on top of my stomach right where my womb is, smiling and giving me the reassurance that she was with me. I stood in front of her smiling and placing my hand over her womb, in total adoration of Jesus within her.

She rejoiced as I was rejoicing in the gift of life. 


As I sit here today, tremendously grateful for this tiny life, I reflect on the words that were sung as I walked down the aisle to Tim on our wedding day….

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander. Let my faith be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.”

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(photo courtesy of Dana Sebastian)

Little one, you are loved more than you will ever know. We are grateful for you and the gift of realizing that our marriage is about way more than just us. 

I thought nothing would compare to seeing your Dad as I was walking down the aisle…. I was wrong. 

Seeing you for the first time on a big screen forever changed me. 

 

 

Finding Joy in the Unordinary Life of the First Year Teacher

I am a first year teacher.

I have tried to write this post 7 times. Each time I have tried to sit down and write, I find something that stops me. Some of those reasons could be; copies that need to be made, student conferences or issues, meetings, lesson planning, or grading- to name a few.

My life is consumed with early mornings finalizing lesson plans, constant questions, little answers, and 45 young eyes that watch my every move…. every single day.

I can’t seem to find the words that can perfectly explain what my life has been like for the last 3 months and how drastically it has changed, the only thing that I can think of is a phrase that is taken directly from the catechism…. “Jesus Christ makes man fully alive“. 

I have repeated this phrase many times when asked how my first few months of full time teaching has gone… “I have never felt more exhausted…or fully alive.” 


These last few months have been ones of tremendous change in my life… I moved out of my childhood home, started my career, got engaged (thank you, Jesus!), and am living by myself in Denver. There is so much I have to be thankful for…. However, I have never felt under so much spiritual attack.

Everyday there are 45 kids that come through my classroom who become my responsibility. They rely on me to teach them skills in writing and reading which can help them further their education. Yet, the most daunting task that I have felt is the responsibility of caring for the souls of my 45 students.

The battle has already begun for my students young souls and, in conjunction with the holy spirit, I am charged with the task of helping fill their souls with tools to help in their relationship with Our Lord and the bridegroom, the Church. I have never been so intimated before and on more than one occasion have cried thinking about how inept I feel to lead these young ones.

I am no Saint.

Saint’s are the ones who are supposed to do this, right? The “holy” ones are those who are meant to lead the young and nurture their souls to find Christ. Well, that’s not me… at least not yet.

I know full well what these students are going to face if they choose to follow Christ when they leave our tiny community.

How can I protect them when I myself am still trying to figure out this whole prayer thing?

They are going to face the enemy head on. The world outside the walls of our school and church are a playground for the enemy and it prowls, lurking behind every “pleasure” in the world, and seeking to break the strong.

Well, what I have learned in the past few months is that we are not living out our Christian faith if we don’t offer up every moment, little or big, in witness to Mary’s words at the time of the Annunciation and say “be it done unto me according to Thy word.”

It’s in our little “fiats” that we are truly becoming saints. It is in the everyday and mundane walks of life where we answer ‘yes’ to Christ’s call to us, that we are becoming not just who we are meant to be- but we are becoming fully alive in Christ Jesus.


I have never felt more fully alive than when I am with my students and encountering Christ alongside them. They are showing me Christ’s love in a real and profound way.

My students are teaching me the reality of Sainthood. I may not be totally enough for my them on my own, but I have help. The God that I fell so in love with is there with me each and every single day as I enter my school, as I collaborate with co-teachers, as I pray with my students, and as I fight for their souls. I am not alone.

1 Peter 4:10 “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”  

Please pray for me.

 

 

True Love | Mama Edition

As I am doing the consecration to Jesus through Mary I have been growing in my love and curiosity of Mary, Our Mother. In height of that I decided I would like to write a little bit about my own Mama, JoAnn Willis.
In case you all don’t know her…. she’s the bomb.


My Mama has been such a vital role model in my life. She has been with me through it all… I mean IT ALL.
She was there when I lost my first tooth.
She was there when I went through my very first break up.
She was there and continued to call me beautiful even though I was in middle school. And awkward.
She was there when I struggled with friends in middle school.
She was there in high school when I was going through the “difficult teen” stage.
She was there when I went on my first date… and hated it.
She was there to take me out of school to go see a movie… all while telling the school I had a dentist appointment.
She was there when I got my drivers license and drove away for the first time by myself.
She was there during every track meet- no matter the weather.
She was there when I walked on the stage to receive my diploma and graduate high school.
She was there when I packed my bags to head off to college.
She was there when I came home all giddy about a boy named Tim.

She was there when I walked across the stage to receive my college diploma from Colorado State University.

Finally, she was there when the love of my life got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.


You know what? As I have grown up I have realized more and more that I am becoming more like her and wanting to become more like her.Growing up whenever I was with my Mom there would be strangers and family alike who would say, “oh you look exactly your mom”. As I have gotten older the more I realize all that my Mom really does for our family and because of that the more this compliment means to me.
You talk to anyone who knows her they will say that she throws the best parties around, has a deep love for her children and grandchildren, can survive on virtually no sleep, and has a laugh that will make anyone in a room laugh with her. What they don’t know, and what I sometimes forget, is how much she truly gives. My mom’s day does not revolve around herself but rather those around her because she makes sure that they can live with ease and comfort.
I know that each time she see’s us cry, she can see the little girl who just wanted to be picked up and cuddled by her Mom.

More than anything my Mom has taught me to love completely and expect nothing in return. She does this in her faith as she learns to love Christ more even in the midst of tragedy and heart ache. But the most selfless act that my Mom has ever done is when she gave Our Lord her children.
She told us that she realized that we were God’s… Our lives would be used for His glory…
What beauty is that? The true gift of self because my Mom went through pain and discomfort to bring me into this world in order to realize that we weren’t hers to keep… but God’s to use.

Do me a favor.

Hug your Mom. Tight.

If your earthly Mother is no longer with us or she struggles in her role with Motherhood, look to Our Mother in Heaven. She is the model for our Mothers here on earth and begin your relationship with her. She will intercede for you to Christ- and there’s not much Jesus will deny His Mother.

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Gotta give some love to our Heavenly Mama:

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What Backpacking the Grand Canyon Taught Me about Love

Adventure.

Most of us, in some fashion, crave adventure. For us women, we long to be swooped up and carried on a wonderful adventure with the man of our dreams. For men, they long to: lead, protect, and serve the women who join them on their adventure.

Women want to be captivating.

Men want to be captivated.

What is all the adventure for? Does it actual exist? How can we find OUR adventure?

“I may not be there yet, but I am closer than I was yesterday.”


I want to tell you a story of this one time when I backpacked the Grand Canyon….

I was asked to go with Tim and his family to hike the Grand Canyon, and although I was nervous, I said ‘yes’. As the months flew by and March was approaching, my excitement grew. I finally understood the excitement of Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit when he yells, “I’M GOING ON AN ADVENTURE.”

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What made this more exciting? I was going on it with the man of my dreams.

The thing is? Adventure is great but we just don’t realize how much suffering we may have to endure along the way. If any of you have seen or read The Hobbit, this is definitely true for Bilbo.

The same was also true for me… I wasn’t prepared for the pain I would feel from carrying a backpack and hiking down 8 miles. I wasn’t prepared for the pain in my legs as each day exhausted every muscle in my body.

We always think we’re ready! Right? We think that “our plan is best”, “we know everything”, “we have it all worked out”. Yet, when we make our plans… God laughs.

The first day of the big adventure was amazing! I did much better than I thought! After making it down to the bottom and celebrating by washing our hot and sweaty feet in the cool creek by our campsite, Tim and I shared a victory beer and stayed up late to see the sky glittering with thousands of stars. It was like a dream!

The dream slowly fizzled when the pain of the ascent began. I was hurting in every muscle of my body, no joke.

The climax of this pain came on the very last day, on the steepest part of the canyon, and filled with over 40 switchbacks. I stared in fear at the distance we had to travel and could feel in my legs a soreness from my pack. My silence was piercing and I could tell that Tim was stressed to see me in pain. Tim would look behind to check if I was OK, I would give him a little nod and continue praying my rosary. Hoping that no one would notice how much pain I was in.

Unfortunately, Tim knows me better than that. He kept asking and asking; “how are you doing? Do you want to take a break soon? How does your pack feel?”… I was embarrassed and frustrated so I would just give him the “I don’t want to talk about it” look and continue on very slowly.

It seemed like forever until we could see what remotely looked like the top of the canyon! I hurried as quickly as my slow feet would go and hiked up the remainder of the canyon, with Tim following shortly behind me.

WHAT A RELIEF. I wanted to cry, but I was way too exhausted.

The ride to the airport was filled with quiet music and heavy breathing. Tim’s sister was asleep in the back seat and Tim could sense I was still agitated from the last few miles up the canyon.

My insecurities have always led me to believe that I’m not “enough”. In the silence of the car ride I was telling myself, “you are so weak. He probably would rather be with someone stronger. You aren’t adventuresome enough for him.”

To break the silence, Tim said: “Hey, thanks for coming! I feel really lucky that you would do this with us. I know it wasn’t easy.”

He continued….

“Don’t worry… I’ll always be there to lift your pack and give you a lighter load.”

Immediately I broke down into tears. I was confronting head on the selfishness of my actions. See, we hadn’t talked about it but while we were hiking up the last 4 miles I would occasionally feel a weight lifted off of my legs… during those brief minutes I would feel such amazing relief and couldn’t pin down exactly what it was until we had almost made it to the top.

While behind me, Tim was lifting my pack so that it wasn’t as heavy and I could lift my legs more easily.

I felt SO guilty! While I was consumed in my own pain, Tim was fixated on me.


This is where it gets real….

My brothers and sisters in Christ,

I learned while backpacking the Grand Canyon the true authentic depth of love. I learned that to love another person isn’t just simply the butterflies you feel around them. To love someone is to suffer for them and the ultimate love is to die for them. Christ shows us the depth of His love on Calvary and Tim shows me the depth of his love in both the little sufferings of the Grand Canyon and the big sufferings when he dies to himself in chastity.

I started out as Bilbo Baggins anxious for my adventure, I ended as Frodo being carried by Sam up Mount Doom.  We all take turns in the different roles.

I am not strong enough…. neither is Tim. We need each other to get to Heaven. 

Throughout the past year I have witnessed couples thrive, barely survive, and fizzle out completely. The couples who thrived, always had their sights set on Christ. The couples who fizzled out were relying on the perfection of each other to get through life. Hate to break it to you people- we aren’t perfect and we never will be. 

Christ is perfect.

As I reflected on my plane ride home from the Grand Canyon I came to a major realization…

Only one man other than Tim has ever selflessly lifted my baggage up a mountain… This man cried for me, was whipped because of me, carried a heavy piece of wood stained with my sin, and died upon that same stained piece of wood- for me. 

I understood, finally, that if I am “enough” for the God of the universe to die a painful death for… I am enough for Tim, even in my brokenness and embarrassment.

“Finally, I realized that love includes every vocation, that love is all things, that love is eternal, reaching down through the ages and stretching to the utmost limits of the earth.” Saint Therese of Lisieux


On August 15th, the feast day of the Assumption, Tim got down on one knee and asked me the most important question of my life, “Kileen Ann Willis, I love you. Will you marry me?”

It was truly the best day of my life (so far) and I gladly accepted his request!

Before he asked me this pivotal question he wrote me a series of 3 letters and on the second one he included these words in big bold letters.

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My sisters in Christ,

Please don’t settle. Ask the Lord who will bring the best out in you and wait for His response. When you grow tired of waiting, rely on Our Lady. Please PLEASE don’t give up! I desire this for each and every single one of you! To grow old with someone who seeks to bring out CHRIST in you is the greatest adventure of all.

It is WELL worth the wait.

“And so it was that she, after having waited long and endured patiently, realized and obtained what God had promised.” Hebrews 6:15

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5 Steps to Healing & Eating Again

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1 year ago today, I came clean to my family and closest friends about the habit that was secretly driving me away from God… my eating disorder. It is only appropriate that this post comes during Holy Week and is about a scar that so deeply wounded me. Holy Week is the perfect representation of my journey and shows that every Good Friday brings about an Easter Sunday. In a previous post I told about how God is turning this embarrassing story into my strongest testimony, you can read that post here.

I sit here… a year later…. with joy and happiness knowing that I fought for where I am today.

I remember as vividly as if it were yesterday sitting down with my loved ones and explaining to them, “I haven’t been eating”. Fear told me that there would be anger, resentment, or maybe a few “what were you thinking! You KNEW better!”. Instead? I got all of the support and love in the world. Both of my parents wanted to see me heal and were monumental in the beginning stages of my recovery. It was only a few months ago that I was in the kitchen with my mom and catching her up on the days festivities when I told her, “Mama I have been eating 3 meals a day consistently!”. Later she told me that just hearing that I am eating 3 meals a day, which was nearly impossible for me 10 months earlier, made her want to jump up and down.

Now… I want to outline the 5 steps that helped me eat again and how I got where I am today.


5 steps to help heal from an eating disorder

1. Prayer & Sacraments

This first one is quite obviously the first and most important thing that helped me start eating again. Prayer, more specifically prayer for my future spouse, helped open up the line of communication between myself and Christ and allowed for forgiveness to take place. Only through prayer can true healing happen. In prayer, Christ was calling me into a deeper union with Him through the scar of my sins. He was asking that I leave whatever mangled brokenness I had, at the foot of the cross and He would take care of the rest. The other essential piece to prayer was the participation in the Sacraments. I regularly went to confession and received guidance from spiritual directors on how to tackle the sins which caused my eating disorder. Let me explain, the actual disorder itself was not the sin but was the result of my sins. Meaning, the sin of self-loathing and immense insecurity led me to the action which was to stop eating. Through the grace of confession and Christ’s precious body and blood in the Eucharist, I gained the strength needed to continue my journey towards healing. The sacraments are like what a body builder uses the gym for; strength. I gained strength and the ability to have my will be stronger than my head.

2. Exercise

Growing up I was always told “working out produces endorphins and endorphins makes you happy.” This couldn’t have been more true for me! I have to be honest though, it was recommended that I try this but I was worried about the potential of misusing exercise and it replacing my lack of eating with just an over indulgence of working off the calories. Luckily with prayer I was ready to take this challenge on! (Please note how important step #1 is!) My sweet boyfriend was a good help with this step also! He was my greatest coach and cheerleader as I started to change my lifestyle. He encouraged me even to the point where we signed up to run the Bolder Boulder (10K). This helped me gain strength physically and also helped me get hungry. Hunger = food. I’ll get into accountability more but just know that as I was getting hungry by exercising, I was also being held accountable to consume the meals which would relieve that hunger.

3. Daily offerings

Trying to sit down and have a meal as a person who struggled with disordered eating habits can be extremely tough. What is so natural has gotten so clouded. When my spiritual director and I were first trying to figure out a “game plan” for recovery, he told me that if I were to start trying to eat again I would have a hard time doing it for myself so he suggested that I offer up meals for some greater social injustice. I have been doing this ever since! I offer up breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for social injustice around the world such as: an end to abortion, human/sex trafficking, Christian persecution, and many more. Selfishly I had rejected that which many people around the world are denied or not able to have, now I offer up those meals in thanksgiving for the gifts God has given me.

Accountability

This step is incredibly vital in those first few months. I had a few people that were holding me accountable to meals including: my spiritual director, my family, and my boyfriend. My spiritual director and I had set up a text exchange system where we could talk everyday at 3:00pm (the hour which Christ died) about what I had eaten already and what I would eat for dinner that night. The catch? Obviously, no lying! This helped me learn what was right for me and how I could balance meals. It was definitely helpful that my spiritual director also had experience in the medical field. 🙂

5. LOVE

This step was the hardest to accept because I struggled with such self-loathing. I had to accept the love of Christ despite my shortcomings and also forgive myself for how much I had fallen. I also had to accept the love of my “person”. My boyfriend was hurt because over the past 2 years I had lied, plain and simple. I knew that I hurt him so badly and although he was willing to forgive me, I wasn’t willing to forgive what I had done. I remember so clearly taking a drive and talking about this issue with him and as I cry and cry I told him, “I’m not worthy… I’m not worthy.” He simply said, “you’re strong enough, pick yourself up and fight. I love you and that won’t change.” I had to be accepting of this response to love and forgiveness. Love gives us hope. I recently heard this quote from Father Pedro Arrupe:

Nothing is more practical than finding God, than
falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide  what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.

Love. Christ’s love, the love of my family, the love of my friends, the love of my boyfriend, and the love of my future spouse heals. It is what brought me out of the pit of isolation that I was in and gave me hope.

Whatever struggles you are having, wherever you are coming from, do not give up on love. Do not give up on hope! Christ is fighting for you and with you! Sometimes we just have to pick ourselves up and fight alongside him.

“If God is within her she will not fail.” Psalm 46:5

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Society’s Waste | You Don’t Have to Join FOCUS to be a Missionary

A few years ago my sister, author of the blog In My Father’s Vineyard, wrote one of my favorite posts about the society’s view on homelessness. The blog post was written shortly after she changed professions and began serving the poor of Northern Colorado, which is neither an easy task nor a desired one. Many put their blinders on to suffering and pass the homeless on the street not even acknowledging their existence. The culmination of the post was a beautiful reflection on the concept of being “pro life” while serving the homeless. She talked about the fact that the right to life isn’t just for the unborn or elderly but for every single human being: old, young, wealthy, poor, loved or unloved. Feel free to read it here. I’ll explain why I mention this a little later.


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These last four weeks marked a big move in my college career, I began student teaching.

The process to actually get placed at a school was an absolute nightmare. From the beginning of my college career I had wanted to student teach at a Catholic School. Only a private Catholic school. The only problem? Every time I came close to that happening it seemed like a huge door was being shut right in front of me. I had almost lost all my hope until I was finally able to get in contact with the principal of a local Catholic Middle School in Fort Collins about my interest in teaching at her school. Only a short 2 weeks later I got an email notification that I was officially placed at that school and would be in communication with my cooperating teacher.

I cannot describe to you the joy of receiving the email “Congratulations! You have been placed!” from CSU. I immediately emailed my teacher.. and then I emailed her again.. and then I emailed her again.

No response.

I called my cooperating teacher the week before I was supposed to take finals and once again got no response from her. After calls and emails I finally went to the only source I could find, the principal of the school. We arranged to meet the following Monday of finals week and I am so thankful that we did. Goodness. If we hadn’t met that Monday I very well could not be student teaching this semester and I would be forced to push my whole college career back one semester.

“I talked to your teacher and she doesn’t want to do it. She won’t have the time or receive the credits she was expecting.”

My heart dropped when Sister Rose Mary said those words. My dream of student teaching at a Catholic school was gone.

Throughout the next few days I had to come to grips with the fact that I had been telling God what I wanted instead of allowing Him to place me where I was needed.

Thankfully, a few days later I got a notification that I had a new placement. I was placed at a public school in Greeley, CO and my first reaction was complete and total relief at finding myself a new place I could finish out my college career, then my second reaction was total and absolute fear.

Shortly after I began sharing with friends and family that I was going to be in Greeley at John Evans middle school, I was met with so much negativity. One friend of ours even looked at my Dad and said, “Is there anyway she could switch?”

My Dad and I both knew why she said this …. the school I would be student teaching at is surrounded by low socioeconomic housing, 70 to 80 percent of the students are Hispanic, a small percentage are refugees and the rest are white, and all of the students are confronted with the very real issue of gang violence.

Is there anyway she could switch?”

That statement came from a place we have all been, a place of fear.

I could have listened. I could have chosen another route. I could have given up.

But a voice deep inside kept repeating to me,”You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” (John 13:7)


I walked into my school two weeks later full of anxiety, fear, and worry.

I had always thought I would be student teaching at a Catholic school in my own safe Catholic bubble. Now that I wasn’t going to be doing that, I was fearful of what God was asking me to do because He was calling me out into the desert and asking that I follow where He leads me…. obediently. How scary! I was afraid that if I taught in a public school I would have to pretend to be somebody I wasn’t. I was afraid that I would have to hide the deep love I have for my Catholic faith and Jesus Christ. Amidst all that fear and anxiety I still had a peace that God had flipped a lot of things around in order to place me here, therefore, He would never abandon me.

The past four weeks God has been allowing me to discover why He placed me at John Evans Middle School

Some of the students that I teach fall under the following criteria:

Over half of them has a parent that is in jail.

Gangs. Some are in them, some are trying to be.

Some are just beginning to understand English and they come from various parts of the world including: Somalia, Thailand, Mexico, and many others.

Some students read at a kindergarten level and others at 5th grade level, what they all have in common is that they don’t read at their own grade level.

Some students are constantly told they won’t amount to anything… by those that should love them the most.

Some students are in between coming out of jail, others have left because they have gone back to jail… And yes…My students are only 11 and 12.

Some students only know how to roll a joint.

Some students are homeless.

To the rest of society, these students are a waste. They will never go anywhere. They’re never going to amount to anything….

At least that’s what they’ve been told.

What the students at John Evans need is hope.

Hope is Jesus Christ.

Just as my sister noticed a need for people to respect the dignity, suffering, and humanity of the homeless… I, too, have noticed a need for people to increase their understanding of the dignity of each one of my students. Many judge John Evans and fear the students that we are teaching without even taking the TIME to hear their stories.

I preach the fact that I am pro-life and the reality is that comes in more forms than just respecting the life of the unborn. It calls out the respect for the hopeless, destitute, lost, and lonely.

Let me tell you… I have no doubt questioned my desire to become a teacher more than once throughout these last 4 weeks, but I also couldn’t be happier where I am. That is where the paradox lies.

I find myself giving all that I am to these students and it is exhausting. I care for them even though they don’t care for themselves. In this exhaustion I also find there’s a peace that at least I am trying and I am fighting for them and I may be one of only a few adults who is actually doing so.  I may not say out loud “you need Jesus, do you know Him?” like your FOCUS missionary would do, but I serve them as best I can.

You don’t need to be a FOCUS missionary to evangelize and bring Christ to others. You can do it wherever you are and in any part of your life. Missionary work isn’t just for college campuses and other countries, it’s for the students that fill the schools marked with the dreaded “Title I” reputation. It is for the students that people believe have already failed. The answer is simple to battle this… we bring Christ to others when we act like Christ to them. We do this through loving even the most hardened of hearts, through serving others in both simple and complex ways, through holding one another accountable, through giving and not counting the cost. I could keep going.

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I ask that you pray for my students and all those who are struggling in this life. Please pray for those who find themselves hopeless so that they can indeed find hope in Christ. Finally, pray for all educators and those blessed with the job of supporting these future generations.