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. 

 

 

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.

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