That One Perfect Day

praying

(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…

nuptial-blessing

(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.

walking-out

(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.”

little-one

(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. 

 

 

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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365 Days of Love Notes [Take 2]

 

Sincere apologies for missing last week! Finals, summer school, and work all got the best of me I’ll admit. But here we go! If want more stories of love notes go here.

My week of love notes from God [take 2]…

Monday May 19th

Sweet Little Bridget Rose always seems to make me laugh when I go over to my boyfriends house. For those of you that don’t know, my boyfriend is the oldest of 5… the younger four being all girls… His youngest sister, Bridget, is 3 (almost 4 at the end of this month) years old and will never cease to ask to play a game, read a book, or sing songs. She’s my little buddy and even though she’s so young, that doesn’t mean she’s not teaching me valuable life lessons. The love she gives is a real all or nothing, it’s pure and authentic. She doesn’t hold back. THIS is the kind of love that I need to learn from and apply to the love I have for Our Lord. A love that wants to hold nothing back.

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Tuesday May 20th

Another sweet baby was my love note on this day. I got to watch Miles James, my nephew. He has such a sweet disposition to him and anyone who comes in contact with him just can’t help but love him! With his constant babbling, laughing, and hugging, I always feel loved when I’m around the kiddo.

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Wednesday May 21st

Achy feet and tired eyes. On Wednesday I couldn’t have been more tired… I stayed up way too late reading an entire book that I was tested on the next day and then woke up early to help with my little nephew. Today I appreciated my sisters as Mom’s more than ever. They work happily and lovingly to give their babies the best life and they sacrifice literally everything in the process. Their needs go behind that of their children’s. I was totally in awe of their self sacrifice. I am so grateful that I have such amazing models of motherhood to show me the ways before I step into that place myself.

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Thursday May 22nd

The theme of these love notes really should just be entitled “KIDS” or “BABIES” because my love note from Thursday was yet two other young ones in my life… my sweet niece and nephew, Addie Jo and Benny. While their parents were at bible study in Denver the kids got to come over to our house! Addie Jo was hilarious that night. She was just running around free of any worry or sadness and was full of PURE JOY. Guess what? Joy is contagious. Once Addie Jo was running around and laughing, I was also running around and laughing. I forgot about the long day of studying and relentless reading that would await me when the two babies left. All I had were those few hours of just an overwhelming sense of joy as I ran around playing with my niece. As for Benny although he can’t run around that kid just smiles and anyone will automatically feel more joyful.

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Friday May 23rd

This day I got to meet up with a dear friend of mine who lives in Arkansas during the year. Sara and I met in High School and were immediately friends. In a sea of people trying to take hold of what the world was offering, Sara was there with me as we tried to make our way towards Christ. Although we don’t get together as often as we should. Any minute we get is always a good one. This is truly a relationship built upon a foundation of our love of Christ.

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Saturday May 24th

My love notes on this day came in the form of my boyfriends entire family. Seriously. I felt so incredibly loved by each of them and I couldn’t help but count the blessings of what God has given me. Also, this day got even better when I received a handwritten letter from Timothy. It was one of those letters that made me tear up right away because of how beautiful it was.

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Sunday May 25th

The love note that tops them all was actually getting to receive Christ Himself in the Holy Eucharist. Body, soul, and divinity. Man…. I can’t explain the joy that I feel when I receive the Holy of Holies but something inside me changes. It’s incredible.

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