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. 

 

 

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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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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