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. 

 

 

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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.

 

 

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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Catholic, Single, and Trying to Navigate the Dating World

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Having a young Catholic try to navigate the dating world can be an intimidating thing especially with terms like, “hook-up, courtship, casual dating, chaperones, and casual sex” floating around society. So what’s the big deal? How does a young Catholic date while remaining both physically AND emotionally chaste?

There are two big words that have been coming up recently in the Christian dating world and that is courtship and casual dating.

First thing is first.. Let me explain what both casual dating and courtship is.

Casual dating (from what I understand) is trying to bridge the gap between courtship and the hook up culture. It tells young single men to go ahead and ask out a girl but “don’t worry, it’s not a commitment… It’s just a date!” Girls should be open to these dates but feel free to let the guy down easy if it isn’t “right”. Which could get you in a tailspin of continued dates just because you feel too bad telling the guy that the relationship isn’t going anywhere. I, like many young girls, didn’t know what the heck casual dating was until I started dating my boyfriend. I remember my sisters all anxiously awaiting to hear about my new relationship and I told them exactly what I was told…”We’re casually dating”.

My older sister looked at me with confusion and asked what that meant and the only thing I could reply was the matter of fact… “I don’t know”.

We were all puzzled. Exclusive? Not exclusive? Committed? Not committed?

I was lost.

Finally about 2 months later we decided to leave all the casual stuff behind us and commit to dating exclusively. I’ll explain why this was the best thing that could have happened to us in the end.

Now courtship looks a bit different.

The Duggar family from the hit TLC Show “19 Kids and Counting” includes in their courtship rules not only an emphasis on maintaining a pure relationship, but they do this through chaperones and strict physical boundaries. The young couples are to have chaperones with them at all times in order to keep them accountable for their guidelines in purity, and the physical touch between the couples are kept to occasional side hugs and getting to hold hands while they’re engaged.

Sounds great and dandy and all….

But for those of you that watch 19 Kids & Counting you may have noticed one thing… These courtship relationships move FAST.

They are barely in courtship for it seems like a month and they’re already planning their wedding.

It might be easy to figure out my issues with each but I’ll spell it out anyway…


Casual dating

1. The definition is unknown.

No one really knows what casually dating is. It’s this weird middle ground between the hook up culture and courtship. Due to its lack of definition many people can just kind of make up what it means. Also, there’s a widely known phrase that goes around in our culture known as “casual sex”. Doesn’t that sound kind of close to “casual dating”? Some people may get confused that they’re the same thing. Which might make for a pretty awkward date if those definitions get crisscrossed.

2. Commitment phobe?
You may snag a few of those commitment phobes trying to turn from their old ways and join the dating scene. The whole casual dating stuff would seem like a good step in the right direction! Casual dating sounds like it allows for people to start dating but in no way requires any true commitment. Personally? Dating shouldn’t include writing an official commitment on paper but it also shouldn’t be a hobby someone would rather do than have the usual “date night with a bowl of popcorn and Netflix” sort of thing.

3. “I don’t see myself marrying him, but it’s just a date!”

Casually dating sometimes doesn’t emphasize the idea of ‘dating with the intent to marry’ enough. They stress just going out on casual dates… Yes that’s great and all. But be realistic! If you can’t see yourself with the guy later in life, why continue dating? It is more selfless to let go than to hang on to another woman’s (or man’s) spouse. Now I’m not saying to go crazy and start picking out your wedding colors or anything but acknowledge whether or not you could picture that person in your future. Then either let go or commit to FULLY dating them and leave this “casual” nonsense behind.

Courtship

1. Physical Chastity vs. Emotional Chastity

Setting physical boundaries to help in the battle for purity is awesome! But let’s remember the less understood word of emotional chastity. The heart is sacred… Don’t give it away too quickly but require that the person God set apart for you seek your heart in the sacred heart of Jesus.

2. Too much pressure

From what I know about courtship it can be a process that involves solid commitment right from the get go. The person that you court IS the person that you will marry. Talk about pressure, goodness. This would leave little room for mistakes. I found that while part of me would want to erase the embarrassment of dating some unfortunate fellows, I would never do that because it was through those lessons I was able to learn about the man I would actually want to marry. There was a freedom and new-found-strength by having those learning experiences (notice I didn’t say failure… it isn’t a failure if you learn from it).


So I propose this…. We date with a purpose.

Dating with a purpose allows for young singles to remove the pressure of courtship but also directs “casual dating” to be more purposeful. Don’t date just because it could be a fun past time. Discern the relationship and if it isn’t fulfilling the purpose to which you intended, then be brave enough to end it.

Dating with a purpose can and should include a vow to practice the virtue of chastity. Until that couple says “I do”, nothing is set in stone. Leave room for the Holy Spirit to direct your relationship and either build it or break it in order to lead you to something else far better. Chastity in a relationship is like the boundaries in a river. Those barriers are what keep the river flowing both quickly and naturally to its destination. For the chaste couple the boundaries which they place in their relationship allow for them to naturally flow towards their destination, which is Heaven. Chastity isn’t meant to make the couple miserable. It is meant to be a joyful struggle. Yes. Struggle with it. Chastity was never meant to be easy but always meant to be worth it. Lift up those struggles for the glory of God and He will give you the joy you seek.

My boyfriend and I about one year into our relationship had to have a serious talk about our future. (Personally- I recommend having this 6 months into your relationship). I told him that if at any point he feels that I am not what is best for him, who he could picture in his future, or who could lead him to Heaven then he should absolutely break up with me. 

I wasn’t saying this to be mean or rude, I was saying it because I didn’t want to be selfish with him. We had to both feel the same way or our relationship was going to end in heartbreak. Remember how I said that the best thing that happened to us was leaving the casual dating shenanigans behind? This is the reason! It allowed for raw honesty between the two of us and a careful discernment as to whether or not we should continue our relationship.

Lastly: (& the most important piece of advice)

Pray and discern whether or not to begin dating. A relationship with Our Lord is the most important thing and sometimes we idolize relationships and put them in the place of our relationship with God. To prevent this from happening make sure that your prayer life is heavily intertwined in your dating life or future relationship. Discernment isn’t just for the future Priests or Nuns, it is for every single vocation. And yes, marriage is a vocation to lead you to Heaven and you can attain the same holiness as someone who enters religious life. There are TONS of holy Saints who were married. Look ’em up.

Holiness begins in the earliest stages of your dating life… actually it begins before you even start dating! Dive into your prayer life and Our Lord will ready your heart as you date with a purpose. 

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How God is Turning My Biggest Embarrassment into My Strongest Testimony

I remember the first time I prayed for my future spouse. I was 11.

I am pretty sure I got the idea from either my older sisters or a chastity talk I had been to in middle school. I wouldn’t be able to tell you exactly where the idea came from… I just did it.

At 11 years old I didn’t know the woman that I would be when I would fall in love with my future spouse. I didn’t know who I would have become in those years or how my relationship with Our Lord would have transformed. I didn’t know who this man was or where he would come from. I didn’t know how he would smile or what sound his laugh would make. I didn’t know much of anything…Except I knew he was out there and he was worth waiting for.

As an 11 year old I also didn’t know the brokenness that I would be carrying into this relationship years down the road, the battles we would have to fight, or the struggles we would have to overcome.

In the [amazing] book called “Woman in Love”, Katie Hartfiel asked this question,

What is your brokenness? Name it. 

This brought me back to last April where I had  to finally name the brokenness that was tearing apart my relationship with God.

This can be summed up into two words…eating disorder.

I struggle everyday with the simplest action of sitting down and having a meal. Yes, that basic human need. Trust me it is as ridiculous as it sounds.

It was only last April, through the grace of confession, that I put a name to the brokenness that was keeping me from God.  My spiritual director sat me down many times throughout the year to ask, “Kileen, are you eating?”. I would reply all offended “Father, of course I am eating! Gosh. Can everyone stop asking me that?”

Yet… that question came up person, after person, after person. My family and friends were growing increasingly concerned over the rapid amount of weight I had lost from my Freshman year of college to my sophomore year. But I refused to listen.

Then I woke up one day last April with the intense desire of wanting to go to confession. This was so weird for me! Although I love the Sacrament it usually takes me days to prepare myself to go to the confessional because I get such bad anxiety beforehand. For some odd reason, this day was different.

In the confessional Father asked me for the millionth time, “Kileen I have to ask because I am your spiritual Father, I care about you…. Are you eating?”

I broke down into tears. I couldn’t lie anymore, I couldn’t fake it.

Throughout the past 2 years I had gotten pretty good at putting on a fake smile and answering the question as if there was no guilty conscious ringing off in my head. I had become used to saying, “Oh no… I walk everywhere so that has really helped me drop a few pounds.”

I was recycling an old lie that was used on me when someone close to me had revealed her eating disorder.

See… the devil knew exactly where to place the sin that I would be too ashamed to share. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide that I wasn’t going to eat anymore. No. It started with my busy life not lending me time to eat breakfast. Then it turned into ‘I’m getting too busy to eat lunch but I’ll have a big dinner’, all up to the point that I was having a smoothie or a few spinach leaves a day. As I stopped eating meal after meal I noticed a change in my body. Sadly, I liked it.

There was still a deep shame inside. After all, my entire reversion was built on ‘rediscovering’ my beauty. In the past I had enjoyed explaining to other woman that they were dignified beautiful creations of God! Yet, here I was. Feeling “satisfied” with the growling of an empty stomach as if it was some victory. While a voice inside said, ” You are a disappointment. You are a failure. You are broken.”

I kept the secret. I isolated the voice of Christ telling me to give Him this brokenness. I felt that if I just shut His voice out, I wouldn’t have to feel guilty or ashamed. It actually increased both.

I wasn’t willing to give up everything for Christ. I was still holding onto a “vision” of my body and along the way I was hurting so many people close to me. They felt lied to… And rightly so.

Why am I telling you this story? 

Well. The man who I began praying for as that 11 year old girl was the same man who helped me heal my own brokenness.

On the day of this same confession, Father continued his spiritual guidance and asked this question, “Do you want to have kids?” My response was a loud and proud yes! He explained gently that if I were to continue denying my body its most basic necessity, I could lose my chance at motherhood.

My heart dropped.

How selfish of me.

Christ was opening up a desire in my heart that was far deeper and held more meaning to me than the size of jeans I wear. I had always desired to be a faithful wife and loving mother, but for some odd reason I didn’t connect my own eating habits with my future marriage and family. One thing I really want to stress is that if I were to have tried to heal purely for me, I would have never started my recovery. In thinking of myself I was led only to self harm and isolation. It was in thinking of the man who God had created with me in mind, the man who Our Lord knew would lead me safely back to Him, that I was able to step outside of my selfishness and name the sin that was keeping me tucked away in darkness.

It was love, namely love Himself, who brought me back into the light.

I was praying daily again. I opened up my first prayer in a little while for my future husband. I prayed that he would forgive my failures. I prayed that I could be the wife he deserved. I prayed for the ability to still be able to have children in the future and if God allows that, I prayed that my children would learn from my mistakes.

It was prayers for my Husband-to-be that began a slow and steady ‘yes’ from God… He was telling me over and over again, “You are enough”.

Months later I still look at the front cover of the journal I bought while beginning my road to recovery, and on it says;

“To You Lord, I am enough”.

I still carry the scar of my own self harm. I still struggle with eating. Sometimes I still even cringe at the feeling of being full. And no… This disorder isn’t glamorous like the store Urban Outfitters would have you think. They would like to de-sensitize it to make you buy a fashion tee that says “eat less”.

But there’s hope…

For me it began with Christ. He brought me back into the light to name the very sin that was leaving me crippled. It was painful and the first few months were exhausting, some days still are. But as Saint Paul wrote in Romans 8:18, “The pain you’ve been feeling, can’t compare to the joy that’s coming.”

The joy of a fruitful and holy marriage that will lead me back to my Heavenly Father is the joy I pray will come. To my future husband, thank you. Your existence alone gave me inspiration to live not just for myself, but for what may come.

This struggle will not become my identity. Because even the tragedy of the cross, Christ turned into His greatest victory.

This is my cross.

“And he said to all, if any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23

Please pray for me, know I am praying for you as well.

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Pinterest is Planning My Wedding…. All I Need is the Groom

cant sleep pinterest is fetching more pins(: lol : so true cant close my eyes without catalogue-ing

I got my Pinterest account when I was a freshman in college and didn’t realize the commitment I was making upon receiving an invitation to officially “sign up”. This was a commitment to procrastination, crafty ideas, and also loads upon loads of pins planning my future wedding. A wedding I was no where close to having. Don’t get me wrong! Pinterest is awesome for valuable information towards ‘do it yourself’ crafts, recipes, fashion trends, and many more. But something I struggle with greatly is making sure that as I pin, especially in regards to looking at the wedding boards, that I keep my heart open to God’s will.

 
Near the beginning of when my sweet boyfriend and I started dating he just happened to get on my Pinterest account and to his dismay he found my wedding board. I was a little embarrassed and tried to hide it from him, but it was of no use. The kid is smart. Both astonished at the number of pins and extremely nervous because we had only been dating for a month or so I reassured him that I made that board a long time ago. Some reassurance huh? This probably made him feel more uncomfortable. I found that as our relationship grew and started to become more serious and marriage got brought up it seemed to have a stigma that it was something that I wanted from him merely to get all the glitz, glam, and romance to have my perfect ‘Pinterest wedding’. I needed the groom to fit into my cookie cutter wedding. This made me so sad because the last thing I wanted him to feel, especially as we started to realize God’s plan for us together, was that he was just a ‘fill in’ and it didn’t matter who it was as long as I could get married in the near future. The thing is, I gave him a completely valid reason to thinking this because of my obsession over weddings on my Pinterest. I knew he wasn’t just a ‘fill in’ but because of my lack of what some would call “emotional chastity” on Pinterest, I could have been at serious risk of losing the one person I had been praying for my entire life. This is when I really began to reevaluate my own emotional chastity in regards to Pinterest.
 
First, let me explain emotional chastity and why it’s so hard for girls. Chastity is a virtue that involves becoming a master over your own desires or wants for the sake of Heaven. Chastity is heavily regarded and mostly looked at in the physical nature but the reality is that it involves our mind and imagination just as much as it involves our body. Men are visual creatures and tend to struggle with physical chastity more, whereas women are more sensual and struggle with emotional chastity. Emotional chastity can be wanting to share the entire depths of your heart or planning your wedding with a guy you’ve just met. Both of these things apply. The reason why women struggle with emotional chastity is because we are naturally a lot more in tune  to our emotions than guys and desire love… not as much sex. Girls still struggle with physical chastity too but as Father John Nepil said when he was talking about emotional chastity, “Girls give sex in order to have love and guys give love in order to have sex.” It’s the reality of how we were made and these aren’t bad things! We just have to place them in the right context of marriage. 
 
Pinterest in it of itself is a good thing! It isn’t bad! But when we take it and use it to make all the planning for God before we truly know the plan ourselves we get into some trouble. For the sake of the person that you are with (or will be with) always remember that they are more than a cookie cutter piece that fits in your plan! They are gift that God has sent you to reach Heaven because marriage is supposed to lead the two people to Our Lord. Trust me, as a girl who struggled (and continues to struggle) with this aspect of emotional chastity I can say that my future spouse is absolutely worth it! Just as the male in the relationship sacrifices and dies to himself physically we cannot be short of making sacrifices as well. 
 
A few pins here and there isn’t a bad thing but when it consumes your thoughts then it’s probably time to take a step back from pinning and maybe have a Pinterest fast for a few weeks. If you continue to struggle with then another suggestion I have is to create a board that puts pins that relate to preparing your heart for your husband. It can include pictures of couples, quotes, or steps into creating a stable relationship with a center focused on God. That can be a fun way to involve your relationship in the Pinterest world. 
 
http://theshortlink.com/pinteresttips 5 Pinterest Tips For Getting Started And Generating High Viral Traffic To Your Site (HINT: All of them FREE) #pinteresttips
Have fun! But keep your heart open to the will of God because He will give you the desires of your heart… and has a plan far greater than the one we plan for ourselves…. Just trust in His goodness. 

 
“Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10