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.

 

 

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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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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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To the ends of the earth would you follow Me?

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The road to sanctification is tough. It isn’t a flat road with wild flowers on each side, but rather a rough and rocky path. Although this path may be tough, where it leads is what matters.

Saint Maria Faustina had a vision of two paths….

“…I saw two roads. One was broad, covered with sand and flowers, full of joy, music and all sorts of pleasures. People walked along it, dancing and enjoying themselves. They reached the end without realizing it. And at the end of the road there was a horrible precipice; that is, the abyss of hell. The souls fell blindly into it; as they walked, so they fell. And their number was so great that it was impossible to count them. And I saw the other road, or rather, a path, for it was narrow and strewn with thorns and rocks; and the people who walked along it had tears in their eyes, and all kinds of suffering befell them. Some fell down upon the rocks, but stood up immediately and went on. At the end of the road there was a magnificent garden filled with all sorts of happiness and all these souls entered there. At the very first instant they forgot all their sufferings” (Diary 153).

I learned a lot about these two paths while hiking two of Colorado’s beautiful peaks. Although I didn’t cry, doesn’t mean I didn’t want to at some points.

I know. This sounds pathetic.

While we were hiking up the steepest part of the mountain, every muscle in my legs were aching and tired. Then to my left I look over to see my boyfriend who was taking it all like a champ! Smiling, laughing, and even joking as we are working our way through the rocks! Each time we stopped because of my tired legs I would immediately look over to him and say “Sorry. I’m just such a wimp.” To this he would look at me with the same sweet grin and say, “It’s not meant to be easy”.

We made it through the rocky and narrow part to reach the summit, and how sweet it was! There’s something beautiful about being above the clouds. It felt almost as if Heaven was within reach. Through the celebration and the peace felt on top of that mountain, I found some clarity about the road to Sainthood.

Tim was right. “It’s not meant to be easy”.

In the spiritual life, we as a people avoid pain because it hurts and at times leaves us feeling a sense of brokenness. We wish pain away but cease to recognize what pain does to us. It prepares us for the goodness that we taste in happiness and joy. Anyone who has run long distance will tell you that the pain they felt during the run was worth the exhilaration they felt afterwards. We feel a sense of joy and satisfaction when we reach that summit, especially knowing the hard task that it took for us to get to that point!

The question remains, why is it that we feel the full extent of pain and it seems never ending, yet happiness and joy seem to pass quickly? I experienced this. The joy of being above the clouds lasted a good while but then there was the realization that we still had yet another peak to climb, and a long road down the mountain, away from the breath taking view, and beneath the clouds that would be waiting for us. Venerable Fulton Sheen explains that this lasting pain and fleeting happiness occurs because, “pain was meant to be exhausted in this life. Joys are not, because they belong to another existence”.

Joy and happiness will be fulfilled where pain ceases to exist… Heaven.

The suffering that we feel here on earth has no place in Heaven! Isn’t that wonderful? We suffer because we are allowed to suffer here and must do so for Christ and with Christ. Our spiritual life will make us feel pain at times, so how do we make that pain bearable?

We love.

Tim demonstrated this perfectly on our hike. Without annoyance or comparison he lifted my spirits when I was down. He showed me that even though we feel pain we can still smile, laugh, and joke. We learn to love more thoroughly and completely when we love during the most painful times of our lives. Seriously… If this isn’t some amazing marriage prep, I don’t know what is.

The road to Sainthood is a road to Calvary. Whatever your cross may be; chastity, sobriety, modesty, faith, or so on. Realize that the summit is there! You are making your way when you choose the rough path to rid yourself of temptation and sin! Don’t let the devil tell you that you’re so far away it would be better to turn around, because if you turn around now you will miss out on the beauty that awaits.

If Heaven is to be far greater than being high above the clouds in beautiful Colorado, I can only imagine how beautiful it will be! Now’s your chance to decide…

Which path will you take? 

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Battle of the TV Proposals

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Embarrassingly enough I watched the entire season of abc’s “The Bachelorette” which ended with Andi Dorfman, the current “Bachelorette”, getting engaged to a former professional baseball player named Josh. I know I know. This show isn’t really known for it’s success in marriages. Neither does it display chastity (really of any kind) and its pretty dang unrealistic. Normal people don’t fly through the Mediterranean for their first few dates, something more along the lines of dinner and a movie with a budget sounds more like it. I guess my hope is that maybe someday there will be a couple that strives to live a virtuous life of love through Our Lord, because it has happened before! Check out Sean Lowe and his wife if you don’t believe me. Anyway… This season ended in beautiful Dominican Republic with a romantic proposal. Let me tell ya….

I am a sucker for good proposals.

You got it. Tears and all.

The strange thing was that while watching the much anticipated Bachelorette proposal, I didn’t shed a single tear. Not one! Don’t get me wrong, josh said some really beautiful things and their love could truly be genuine. I even had some “awe” moments. But the reality was that some of the things he said really didn’t strike me to the core like the proposal of Jill Duggar and Derick Dillard from the TV show “19 Kids and Counting”.

As I was talking with my sister and telling her about how strange it was that I cried watching the proposal of Jill and Derick but not the infamous “Bachelorette” proposal, one would think that with all the hype the Bachelorette makes, it would result in a crazy romantic proposal that would bring any girly girl to tears. I realized as I was talking what the huge difference was…. God being the writer of your love story or not.

During the Bachelorette, the proposal was filled with phrases like, “I am so passionate about you…We have so much passion…we have so much chemistry…I fell in love with you on the first night I saw you….” So on and so forth. God wasn’t mentioned at all. Our Lord is LOVE, therefore; how can you fully love someone without involving love Himself?

I remember being glued to the TV as Derick Dillard got down on one knee to ask Jill Duggar to marry him and honor him by, “serving Our Lord with him for the rest of his life.” Even before he got down on one knee, the viewers listened to a beautiful song that was written specifically for the couple detailing their love story. The lyrics went along the lines, “when He made you, it was obvious He was thinking of me”. Isn’t that a beautiful phrase you want to hear on the day you get engaged? The assurance that God had been the writer of your love story! The confidence that God was thinking of you when He created your future spouse. If you want to hear it click here.

Shortly after the proposal the couple went back to the Duggar home to announce their engagement. What was the first thing the family did in celebration? They gathered in prayer.

“Therefore what God has joined together, let no man separate.” Matthew 19:6

A couple who prays together, stays together. It may be entertaining to see the grandeur of ‘love’ displayed on the Bachelorette but without the direction of Our Lord channeling the relationship, it may be like a river without boundaries. The river that lacks boundaries will have no end result and will go in every direction, where as the river with boundaries will flow more smoothly and have a place where it inevitably ends. For Christian relationships this inevitable end is Heaven, and the boundaries that keep us steady on that path are our virtues. Chastity is a biggie. These boundaries aren’t meant to be restrictive, but rather they allow freedom to exist in the relationship. The freedom to leave the relationship if it’s not a good fit because you aren’t physically attached, or the freedom to choose the path to sanctification which is the path of chastity with your beloved. Our Lord asks not only, “Will you accept this rose?” … But asks…”Will you accept both this rose AND these thorns?”

How will you respond?

“If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy,complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing.
Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but everyone for those of others. Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.” Philippians 2: 1-6

365 Days of Love Notes | Take 4

If you don’t know about this link up series I’m participating in check out storyofarose.com !

July 14th through July 19th

Monday

-On Monday my day began with watching my little nephew Miles. Because my grandma from Texas was in I was able to watch the little man! Playing hide and seek with him literally brings out the child in me. He shows me the love of a child so transparently and taught me the love that Our Lord must have for His children.

Tuesday

-On Tuesday I grabbed a cup of coffee with a friend of mine! Our Lord was showing me the fruits of continuing to work in His vineyard.

Wednesday

-On Wednesday I enjoyed a day with my baby niece and nephews!!

Thursday

-On Thursday I had some much needed an exciting news for my new modesty project 30 days modesty challenge! Keep a lookout for the details 🙂 Check out my blog “30 Day Modesty Challenge” for more info and consider joining me in this challenge!

Friday

-On Friday I had a date night with my boy! It included a nice gluten free dinner (still getting used to him being gluten free), a walk, some live music, and an awesome fireside chat with my sister and her boyfriend.

Saturday

– On Saturday it was eventful! I went on a beautiful (but tiring) hike with my boy! Which included an embarrassing bloody nose moment where I learned how modest TRULY is hottest. My bloody nose got my t-shirt all bloody and the only other shirt I had with me was a waterproof jacket. I had to wear that in 90 degree weather…. One word… HOT. But Gods beauty and the conversation I was able to have with my handsome guy made that day pretty awesome! Along with a pretty wonderful gender reveal party for my older sister! Guess what? I’m going to have another baby NEPHEW! Fun fun stuff!

Sunday

– Sunday. Beautiful relaxing day where I got to worship The Lord I love and hang out with my family! Also, I watched the movie “Gimme Shelter”. If you haven’t seen it…. Do it. Seriously. I’ll be writing a blog review on it! Keep on the lookout!

Growing Up Willis | Jesus + Relationships + Purity

My family is obsessed with watching the wholesome and hilarious show “19 Kids and Counting”. In the season finale of the show, along with an adorable engagement, there was also a segment about the four oldest girls releasing their book “Growing Up Duggar” which was all about relationships and answered some persistent questions from their viewers. Inspired by their topic, I spent some time reflecting on how it is that I am the way that I am today. Therefore, here’s a small look into my “Growing Up WILLIS” which is focused primarily on Suffering+Jesus, relationships, and purity. Enjoy!

SUFFERING+JESUS

Our Lord is always a good place to begin and I can absolutely say that my life would be a whole heck of a lot different had my parents not been wise enough to bring Christ into my life. My sisters and I attended a Catholic School from our kinder years to eighth grade. I cannot emphasize enough the power that receiving the Eucharist each Friday probably did to both me and my sisters later in our lives! I am sure the grace that we had received at that time was Christ giving us the strength to live for Him later.

My Mom and Dad taught us at a young age about God and all His goodness. My Dad, selflessly, allowed for all of us girls to be baptized into the Catholic Church even though he is not Catholic. Although, anyone who knows Wayne Willis knows how hard it is to believe that he is NOT Catholic- the man is on his way to Sainthood. I tell ya. It wasn’t just my Dad supporting us throughout our childhood (0bviously) but it was my Mom paving the way for us to learn how to be a woman of God. It was the collective love of Christ found in our parents’ marriage that built the foundation for us girls to fall in love with Our Lord. Let’s be real… BOTH my parents are on their way to Sainthood. Especially with what came years down the road. What would come would be an opportunity to practice true reliance on faith when we were confronted with the biggest challenge anyone faces in life…. Which is death.

I was a 6th grader waiting for the ‘longest year of my life’ to be done. You all know how it is… Middle School is just awkward. I was thinking about the pool, movies, and shopping I would be doing in the summery months. It all changed on June 1st, 2005 when my family was notified that my Mom’s brother had tragically passed away three days prior… On the day of my sister’s graduation. What made it harder was that my Uncle Charles had unfortunately passed away from a suicide, largely due to his drug use, and it was hard to fathom any goodness coming from such tragedy. I remember the pain of unanswered questions and the wish that it could have been an ‘easier death’ to understand. Strange right? The last conversation I had with my Uncle the night before the suicide continues to replay in my head. I remember the anger I could hear in his voice. But what haunts me most of all, and explains some things about my family, is that I forgot to say ‘I love you’ when I got off the phone. I forgot. How could that happen? I never forget to say ‘I love you’! How could I forget on that night?? I remember the pain from all of these foreign emotions. I didn’t know how God could turn this tragedy into something beautiful… But of course… I was wrong. See the thing is, Our Lord has a way of making the worst tragedy on the cross become His greatest victory. It was His suffering that gave my family and I the strength to continue on and the faith that He will be with us, “until the end of the age”. (Matthew 28)

Continuing further, my sisters and I were beginning to heal from Uncle Charles and learning how to walk in ‘blind faith’ with God. But our trial was no where near over… On June 1st, 2006 my family and I were rushed to El Paso on an emergency for my cousin, Brandon. A year after my Uncle had passed away, my cousin had suffered a drug overdose and was in a coma for 3 days. We were praying day in and day out that Brandon would survive. So you can imagine our joy when he was expected to make a remarkable recovery! Brandon was our miracle! I remember my parents telling us girls, “There are survival stories! The chain can be broken!”. This time around I had learned my lesson from Uncle Charles and I wasn’t going to miss out on chances of saying ‘I love you’, and squeezing him for extra long hugs. The problem came on March 28th, 2007 when my cousin passed away from his second drug overdose. I remember saying, “Lord, why US? Why does this keep happening? He was so young! I could have helped him!” But there He was again… the soft whisper in my heart telling me that in giving Him all… In giving Him my trust… In giving Him my cousin… my pain and grief would subside. God was waiting for my family and I to lean on Him.

The hardest part about the deaths? Was letting them go. Uncle Charles and Brandon weren’t ours to hold on to. They were God’s. They belonged to Him, and I had to respect the fact that He wanted to take them away from their suffering. I had to let them go.

I tell these stories to exemplify that my family and I fell in love with Jesus because of the comfort in knowing that He knew suffering and He knew it first hand! He was with us the entire time and was ready to give us the strength that we needed to continue on our journey towards Heaven… all in the hopes that we will once again see those who we lost so young. Yes it’s true that my family never ceases to say “I love you”, but it’s because I remember being robbed of that opportunity the night before my uncle died. Yes it’s true my family never ceases to celebrate, but it’s because we had learned that it is the tiny victories and celebrations that overcome the sadness. Yes it’s true my family laughs really loud and talks for hours, but it’s because we are grateful for those we still have with us. Finally, it’s true my family never ceases to rely on Our Lord, because it was in Him that we are continuously given peace.

If God gives you an abundant harvest of trials, it is a sign of great holiness which He desires you to attain. Do you want to become a great saint? Ask God to send you many sufferings. The flame of Divine Love never rises higher than when fed with the wood of the Cross, which the infinite charity of the Savior used to finish His sacrifice. All the pleasures of the world are nothing compared with the sweetness found in the gall and vinegar offered to Jesus Christ. That is, hard and painful things endured for Jesus Christ and with Jesus Christ.
–Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Relationships + Purity

Here’s another challenge my sisters and I found that led us towards sanctification… purity in high school.

My sisters and I were allowed to date in high school and boy (no pun intended) did we learn quickly how drastically different we were from the rest of our high school. We were a part of the slim margin of girls attempting to live a chaste life, and an even slimmer margin of practicing Catholics. What I can say to any girl or guy who is attempting to live a holy and chaste life in high school is that it helps when you know that it can be done! This is what my oldest sister, Kelsie, did for the rest of us girls. She showed us through her actions that chastity and maintaining our Catholic faith was possible during the rough years of high school! Seeing sister, after sister, after sister accomplish the seemingly “impossible” task of purity gave me the strength and confidence I needed to keep on the straight and narrow path towards Christ.

Even though I knew all of this…Let me tell ya… I learned the hard way about high school boys. It seemed at that time I had liked literally ALL the wrong guys.

Some started out in agreement with respecting my choice of not having sex, only to find that months later that they were expecting me to ‘change my mind’ which ended in heart ache. Some made fun of me behind my back or mocked the decision. And some saw the purity ring as a challenge, and attempted to ‘break me’. Luckily, they failed.

Honestly? I wish I would have read Crystalina Evert’s “dump him” list. Check them out here.  I could have used this to avoid a lot of tears from being the school prude.

So… Kileen… you’re saying that purity is really hard. Some guys will challenge it. You will cry a lot if you choose to live that lifestyle, ect. Is there an upside?

Heaven, my brothers and sisters in Christ. Which is very worth waiting for.

In my life, I had my sisters who showed me the strength of what happens when you wait. It may really stink at the time that the one really cute guy from class doesn’t want to go out with you because of a ring you stuck on your finger, but in reality? Someone who doesn’t respect that decision and doesn’t die to himself for you IS NOT WORTH YOUR TIME. Notice the emphasis. Therefore; find a role model to look towards, know that you’re not alone in your fight, and know that there are many people who are praying for you to succeed in this battle for chastity.

Sex isn’t just something done because ‘you love the person’, true love is laying down your life for the person you love and suffering for them. Love gives, it doesn’t take away. Love is worth waiting for, even though it’s the hardest thing to wait for. Just like Heaven 🙂

Growing up as a Willis girl was filled with some pressures. The pressure to get good grades, be beautiful (my testimony to this will detailed in another post very soon… keep on the lookout!), be faithful to the Catholic faith, and abide by the morals I had been taught. All of these are good things! It was faith and strong will that was only possible through the Lord’s grace that has gotten me to where I am today. Oh… and a heck of a lot of amazing family and friends to support and love me as well! Know that I pray for you and all those who are striving to live a life of chastity and obedience to Our Lord, I only ask that you pray for me as well.

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“When you decide to live a clean life, chastity will not be a burden on you: it will be a crown of triumph.” -Saint José Maria Escriva