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.

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

Veiled: For my Beloved

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As I walk into the sanctuary on a beautiful Sunday I automatically feel the glances and sense the stares. Part of me doesn’t want to look up and awkwardly catch eyes with the person looking at me, so I continue to walk in and make my way to the pew.

Then I see Him.

I kneel down and genuflect in front of the first love of my life. My heart lifts and I forget the people staring. It’s just me and sweet Jesus.

Yes I am one of many young women who are revitalizing an old tradition of wearing a veil (mantilla) in the presence of Our Lord. And yes, you can do this and not be 80 years old. I remember seeing the older generation at my home parish wear the veil and thought to myself, “Wow they STILL do that?” Not even fully realizing how beautiful of a tradition it was. Of course Our Lord brought me to that understanding about a year ago and deepened this calling for veiling. I ignored it. “That would be awkward! Women don’t do that anymore! They would stare at me and judge me!” All of these thoughts were based on fear, not love. Veiling in front of Our Lord is founded purely on love of Him. And boy was I in love! So of course I stepped up and obeyed the calling. Fortunately, haven’t looked back since. 

Now that I have been wearing the veil for a while, I realize the beauty and the depth to this calling and it isn’t just about modesty and obedience in front of my Lord. No.

The veil represents my total gift of self to my beloved.

As I walk down the aisle towards the Eucharist… I am meeting my beloved. I am walking towards the first love of my life and I ready my heart to be one with His. To receive His body, soul, and divinity. When you veil you are recognizing that something beautiful and sacred is in front of you. Women were created as the most beautiful creation, therefore; when we veil, we humble ourselves and point to something even more beautiful… Which is God Himself.

Now…Fast forward a few years….

I walk with my Dad making our way towards the altar in the church.  

I fix my veil, perfecting it to make sure that I feel and look my best.

My nerves rise as I get closer towards the entrance of the sanctuary, everyone is looking at me, everyone is staring….

Then I see him.

My groom standing at the front of the altar. Waiting patiently for me and symbolizing perfectly the patience that came along with living out a chaste relationship so that on my wedding day I could wear white, and mean it.

I am veiled representing my total gift of self to him and Our Lord. I walk down the aisle toward my beloved, the man that I will be united with through the sacraments and who also fulfills what Our Lord says in scripture that, “Then the two shall become one flesh…”

.Let’s come back to today…

When I walk into the sanctuary on a normal Sunday I meet my first Beloved in the tabernacle, one who I walk down the aisle time and time again to receive on my tongue in the Holy Eucharist. I wear the veil symbolizing my gift of self and submission to Our Lord, a gentle reminder of Our Lady and how she modeled this so perfectly. Mary gave herself as a gift to God. We all as women are gifts to humanity! This is what we need to remember! The reason we were created last is because we are the crown of God’s creation!

See, it is no coincidence that brides wear a veil on the day of their wedding. This tradition, much like the tradition of wearing the chapel veil, has now been accustomed to taste. We need to re-educate that the veil isn’t an accessory but rather a symbol of submission, humility, dignity, and the gift of ones self to another. As a bride I will walk down the aisle veiled for the Beloved that God made for me. The man who I will vow to live my life t’ll death to Heaven and all while fulfilling the ultimate goal… “Kileen, let’s be Saints”. 

Although the stares and glances from some of the parishioners may be uncomfortable, the reality I have found is that I don’t wear the veil because of them! No, I wear the veil for my beloved. The veil was never about myself and the parishioners, but rather it is about symbolizing my own dignity, obedience, faithfulness, and total gift of self to not only my beloved Lord but also my beloved [future] husband.