Finding Jesus in the Temple

I hate to admit it, but often times when praying the rosary I’ll be mindful of the appropriate mysteries on the first & last Hail Mary. The rest of the time? Distraction. It’s a real tragedy and one I am trying to work on. During Advent & Christmas, I typically pray the joyful mysteries straight through. This gives me ample time to really work my way through the infancy narratives (while simultaneously never being enough).

Recently, I was struck by something that I haven’t encountered before. I was on the fifth joyful mystery, the finding of Jesus in the temple – it’s a story with much significance in Jesus’ hidden life, but one which I so often gloss over. To try and stay focused, I’ll usually keep in mind one verse while praying: “did you not know I must be about my Father’s business?” I’m not even sure what that translation is, but it’s always stuck with me from a homily way back when.

So I was repeating that phrase, imagining Mary & Joseph searching for Jesus, finding him, asking why he would do this to them while they look for him anxiously. And his response, on the surface, can sometimes seem a bit rude. Like, Jesus – have a bit more respect for thy parents. But no. It is not rude at all. Jesus was not where Mary & Joseph expected or wanted Him to be. He was where his Father needed Him to be. 

How often do I turn to Jesus with my naive question: where were you? where are you? why are you not with me? why are you not doing what I think, in all my mediocre human wisdom, you should be doing right now? But now I see His response: “did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” I am just now starting to understand how He gave is the most loving, merciful, and just response of all.

There are [many] times we are seeking Jesus, seeking help and answers that only God can give, and we do not find that for which we are looking. At least for me, my mind will so often resort to, “obviously you just want me to suffer and remain where I am.” Well, maybe He does…in that moment. But I need to remember that He is always working, healing, and redeeming. It may not be in the way that I am expecting or wanting, but it is always in accordance with the Father’s will for my life.

“All things work for good for those who love God.” [Romans 8:28] Kevin used to say this all the time when we were dating. It was basically his catch phrase. Still, we usually will say it to one another when things are not going our way. Because while we are so overcome by the small details and moments of our lives, God is reigning over all of mankind. He is profoundly aware of our small details, but has the gift of seeing them in light of, quite literally, everything. 

I’m pretty sure that I’d rather our omniscient & omnipresent God do His thing than have me mess it up. So thank you, Lord, for giving us the fifth joyful mystery. Thank you for letting us know that when we feel like we can’t find you, you are assuredly about your Father’s business – which is always good.

 

Praising God in Weakness

Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. – 2 Corinthians 12: 7-9

This passage was taped to my wall for a while when I was single. It spoke to me in a really big way. It particularly stayed with me during Lent of 2012. God was working something in my heart, and I was feeling it physically. During this time, I was struck with powerful imagery of the humanity of Christ. The poor analogy I made was the scene of the cartoon film Hercules when he gave up his godly powers, but continued fighting. He experienced what it was to be human, and how that manifested itself primarily was profound physical weakness. While Jesus is far superior to the fictional Hercules, I imagine He experienced hunger, thirst, exhaustion, and physical limitations. Carrying His cross to Calvary was not a light, midday stroll. It was painful, difficult, and a burden He needed Simon the Cyrene to carry with Him. It was precisely through these moments of weakness & suffering, though, that Christ conquered. He reigned.

Now several years later, this is still one of my favorite passages of Paul’s. But it has take on different meaning. Since 2014 (maybe a bit earlier, but wasn’t paying too much attention), I’ve been struggling with a random assortment of health issues. Back in the day when I was so much more ignorant than I am now, I did not put them all together. Symptoms began popping up sporadically on top of things I had dealt with for years (but of course, was “professionally” told that all this was normal). So I really took my health into my own hands and began researching and experimenting.

2016 was the year of progress. I met with a surgeon who took my symptoms very seriously, and within three weeks I was recovering from a laparascopy during which they removed endometriosis. Then I began seeing a naturopathic doctor to continue my health journey – as I expected, we began to uncover much more. You see, for some reason, I was struggling with things like acne, daily painful bloating, stomach issues, back pain, random nausea, and continued severe menstrual pain even post-surgery. Much of this was all relatively new to me (who starts getting acne at age 25?!). Why now? And how come?

I’ve worked arduously to improve my condition, to eradicate these frustrating symptoms, and to reach a state of healing. While I had always been a healthy person by normal standards, I’ve done Whole 30’s, gone strictly paleo, and in the past six months been practically AIP (which basically means you never want to invite me over for dinner because it’s a burden on both you and me). I’ve swapped out pretty much any product in our home for a purely natural & organic substitute. I’ve strained the budget more than you can imagine trying to eat high quality food, while also eating substantial portions (it’s an effort to NOT lose weight). We’ve sacrificed a great deal in our life so that I can do acupuncture, take [the most expensive] supplements, do doctor-advised detoxes, and try out other occasional, but seemingly necessary, ventures.

And yet here I am. I am doing as much as I think I can do. And for the past month, an unwelcome friend came back to visit me. One that I have not had to really deal with since October 2014 when I gave up cow milk. It’s a golf-ball sized lump underneath the skin on my chin. The kicker is that unless the swelling really goes wild (which isn’t that often), nobody notices except me. But the discomfort, the pain, the inability to smile, the exhaustion of a long conversation, the difficulty with brushing my teeth or washing my face – it’s as frustrating as a mild health issue can be. I’ve experienced terrible illnesses & conditions in my life (besides the chronic pain with endometriosis, esophagitis takes the cake for the worst), but this one just seems to come with no explanation, interfering with my life in all the right ways. Why has it come back? After I finally felt like I was making some substantial progress all around? I have no idea. But maybe, just maybe, it’s something God allows me to experience, as Paul so beautifully states in 2 Corinthians, to keep me from being too elated. To rely on Him more than my own efforts. To recognize that I can do everything & anything, but He is healer, savior, & redeemer.

While I’ve learned so much over the past two years, I have come to accept that I may never know the source of all of these ailments. I can work towards healing, but even when I attain the type of health I am seeking, we still may not be given a child (which is what so much of this has been for). Some days, I wake up and want to cry because I can feel the lump or the pelvic pain. But I don’t tend towards tears, or even mentioning it to Kevin every five seconds (which used to be the case). I don’t love these scenarios either, but at some point I need to accept that God’s grace is sufficient. Even when my face is in pain, or my period comes like a freight train, or when we have to buy baby shower gifts for another couple who accidentally got pregnant. These thorns in my side at least serve to help me turn towards my Creator and to appeal to Him as Paul did. Because, let’s be real, if all of this were to go away instantly, I think there’s a big part of me that would credit myself for all of my hard work. I’d thank God, but maybe only in that formal way that I know I’m supposed to.

So while I wait (and work for) my thorns to be removed, I pray that God fortifies me in Him. That the power of Christ may dwell more in me & my weakness. That He would use my small suffering in a fruitful way. For all of this, I truly praise Him!

In Christ,

Katie

Election Reflection (see what I did there?)

I reluctantly voted. I did not want to, but have read over and over by Priests and Bishops that it is my “obligation.” I respectfully disagree because for that to be true I would first have to acknowledge our government as a legitimate authority (which I’ve been wrestling with for quite some time). And while I was quite undecided as to what I’d do until very recently, I gave in and “exercised my right” as the people say.

No matter the outcome of this, or any, election, our hope is not and should never be in government or its leaders. As human beings, we ought to do what we can to love our neighbor without government intervention. Government simply cannot take the place of people loving & serving one another, and to think that it can is a prevalent and dangerous thought into today’s society. All our government does is steal, use the threat of violence to accomplish its agendas, and feed the deadly sin of envy. All under the lie of “for the people.”

So how can we, despite the downward path of our nation (which is most likely to continue), still work for a better society?

  • Have thought-provoking conversations with others and learn to think critically. Most of us are very good at being proud, opinionated, and emotion-driven, which keeps us from seeking truth. (I am terribly guilty of this, but thankfully have a wonderful husband who has been helping me grow in this regard.)
  • Give charitably to individuals & organizations that you believe you ought to support. (And how much more so could we all do this without the government stealing our resources and using them immorally?!) Take away the government’s “social policies” (which often do far more harm than good) and it is still our moral obligation to serve others according to the gifts God has given us.
  • Engage in community! Families, churches, neighborhoods, schools (private ones, homeschooling co-ops, universities, etc.) – beautiful support systems that help us grow and live fruitful lives. Good relationships will lead to a better society.
  • Do honest work. Work in business, education, healthcare, whatever. Stay at home with your kids raising little humans. But do it earnestly, and have enough courage to turn away from corruption and evil when confronted with it.
  • Love your neighbor. Yes, it’s great to care for those in need all around the world. But we often do so and neglect our next-door neighbor. Your co-worker having a rough day. The homeless person you drive by everyday on your commute. The cashier at the grocery store. Extend kindness to the people God has placed in front of you and make real connections.
  • Care for the vulnerable. There are many among us who need our care in a profound way. Lend some help to the expectant mother who is faced with a tough road ahead of her. Show generosity to the poor in ways that you are able. Look after the elderly and disabled. Peacefully advocate for the lives of the unborn. There are so many people often overlooked that could use our attention. And be genuine – grow in virtue and see all of these individuals as valuable parts of our lives.
  • Pray! Maybe you don’t believe in God or the efficacy of prayer. I still think this is by far the most important. Pray for conversion of hearts to the truth. When everyone’s heart is converted, then maybe we won’t be so naive as to think we need select men & women lording over us and directing our actions.

May God have mercy on us all. The world, our country, our neighbors, ourselves. God’s goodness will still reign no matter the craziness we see happening. Christ is the Victor. God bless!

Given & Grateful

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This past week, June 7-12th, I had the absolute privilege of attending the GIVEN Forum hosted by the CMSWR (Council of Mother Superiors of Women Religious). The application required each woman to develop an action plan based on a need she saw in her parish, diocese, or community. We will all be held accountable for these action plans that are expected to be implemented by spring 2017. Once accepted, each woman received a full scholarship generously provided by sponsors and a grant given to religious sisters for the year of consecrate life.

It was essentially a group of 80+ religious sisters from various orders coming together to build up 300 young lay women (ages 20-30) of the Church through encouragement, formation, spiritual nourishment, and practical advice. I’ll be the first to admit, I was a little skeptical about the entire thing, but all of my doubts were cast aside upon arrival.

WHAT WE EXPERIENCED

There was something so unique about this conference, it’s attendees, and the women pouring out to us. It probably has much to do with all of the cloistered orders in the US praying for us (talk about a storm of grace). At first, I thought it was just me, but it wasn’t long until it was out in the open: every personal encounter at GIVEN was an encounter of the holy Spirit. Simple “hello’s” lead to life stories (mainly because nobody knows how to answer the question “where are you from?” simply – understandably so!), and instant connections were made.

I truly felt God’s presence in every interaction, every talk, every meal – even my roommate and I believe that our pairing up was of divine Providence. I had come to GIVEN with a lot on my heart: many unknowns and an uncertainty of how to move forward. And while this was a conference, not necessarily a retreat, I think we all received the best of both worlds and experienced what we needed. And finally, I was most pleasantly grateful for the ways in which the sisters mothered us throughout everything.

WHAT WE RECEIVED

It was evident that the religious sisters took this event very seriously; much prayer and careful planning went into it. Every speaker was handpicked and had a specific message to deliver, while revealing his/her (mostly her) own vulnerability. It very much felt as if each individual was speaking directly to our heart of hearts while masterfully contributing her piece to a beautiful puzzle.

All of the speakers were true powerhouse women (with a couple men for more practical talks) who clearly live out their authentic femininity through service to Jesus and His Church. I could go on and on about all of them (each one was truly a necessary part of the entire conference), but some of my favorites included: Sr. Mary Gabriel, SV, Helen Alvaré, Sister Amelia Hueller, O.P., Audrey Assad (witness & concert), Dr. Carolyn Woo, Hallie Lord, Gloria Pervis, Dr. Mary Healy, Dr. Catherine Pakaluk, Ph. D., and Dr. Elvira Parravicini.

While it was a packed schedule and I think most people went home in a state of exhaustion, we all knew we had received something great. We had been given something wonderful. And it was the perfect blend of spiritual, practical, and emotional to propel us forward in our missions as Catholic women.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Now, it’s going to take me weeks, maybe even months, to unpack the graces and lessons from GIVEN. But here are ten of my favorite quick points impressed upon us by the speakers:

  • We, as women, cannot “have it all” and that is not only okay, but it is good. Our differences matter and point to something much greater than ourselves. Our world resists the idea of two sexes and that there is a possibility for diversity to co-exist among complete equality [Helen Alvaré].
  • We all have a desire to be noticed because we are meant to be noticed. And as much as we desire this – think of how much Jesus craves our attention. Therefore, we must also take notice of the Church and Her needs, as only we women can [Sr. Mary Gabriel].
  • We must develop the capacity for God to work through us [Dr. Carolyn Woo].
  • We can plan a lot of things, but we can never predict how God will move mountains [Hallie Lord].
  • The best decisions are non-decisions – they are accompanied by joy [Luanne Zurlo].
  • If God calls you to something, He will give you the time, energy, and desire [Hallie Lord].
  • The evil one is desperately afraid of women who know who they are and are filled with the holy Spirit. Walk in victory [Dr. Mary Healy].
  • God did not create us to be at the foot of the cross all the time – it is a state. We are called to be joyful; we are meant for the resurrection [Dr. Amal Marogy].
  • We cannot right every wrong. We are not always called to fight evil, but we are called to always do good. And an abundance of our good can drown out the evil [Dr. Amal Marogy].
  • The most important thing we can do to have an objectively successful career, and a spiritually fruitful one, is to be an authentic woman [Luanne Zurlo].

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Finally, as we go forward with all of this wisdom and grace, ready to respond to God’s call for our particular life, I’ll end with words from Gloria Purvis:

You are chosen – are you willing?

Now, what are you willing to risk?

You are able.

Who is Jesus?

Who is Jesus? Sounds like a simple question, right?

Savior.

Son of God.

Redeemer.

Prince of Peace.

King of Kings.

The list goes on and on. The past few months the title that has resonated in my heart and kept me pondering is the Word of God. Isn’t it funny when we find ourselves in these moments of epiphany? Then we speak it out loud, and all of the sudden it sounds so silly. Because it should be obvious, right?

It’s right there in the first lines of John:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” [John 1:1-2]

And yesterday’s first reading:

“So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.” [Isaiah 55: 11]

While it’s been right under my nose for years, it’s finally hitting me. A deeper understanding of the Second Person of the Trinity through this title: Word of God. The fact that all of scripture is God’s one uttered Word. Total & complete. The catechism states that we venerate the Scriptures as we venerate the Lord’s body. How beautiful is that?

I think it’s pretty dang beautiful. And powerful.

How will we respond?

Today at Mass, a newly-ordained Deacon was preaching and he mentioned a phrase I’ve heard many times but that I don’t seem to dwell on enough: “already and not yet.” What does that mean? Our faith can be a strange, and at times, seemingly contradictory thing. Our Lord came and redeemed us, and yet there is still the final judgment to be made. Redemption has come, but it ain’t over.

And then there is Advent. A time of waiting for our Lord. We remember his Incarnation, but we also await his second coming. And as we prepare our hearts for the celebration of Christmas, we also need to prepare our hearts for the day we will meet God face-to-face. As today’s second reading says, “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones.” [Thessalonians 3:12]

This life that we are living is our opportunity to choose God. Once we die, time is up. We will no longer be able to change our ways, or repent for our sins. The time for that is now. It may seem dreary to be speaking of death when most of the world begins holiday festivities, but we cannot separate the Incarnation from the cross. Redemption came at a cost.

I was reflecting a great deal today on how I can use these weeks ahead to drastically silence my heart and open it up to our Lord. He has called us out, and we choose how we will respond.

May you have a blessed Advent!

 

 

God’s will, free will, and Middle earth

I’ve been re-reading Lord of the Rings lately, which I’ve been loving. I read them for the first time in college, more than six years ago now. Fellowship is a great one to go back to in the fall, with Bilbo’s birthday being in September, and with so much of the book taking place in autumn. The descriptive language of the Shire and Rivendell just makes my heart sing.

Now, we all know (or should know) that Tolkien has a way with words and is a phenomenal writer. He also was a Catholic and there is truth, beauty, and goodness infused in his characters, his stories, and his themes. As I arrived at the Council of Elrond, I was struck by some beautiful speech of his. It is right after Frodo announces that he will take the ring to Mordor, and Elrond looks at him and says this:

“I think that this task is appointed for you, Frodo; and that if you do not find a way, no one will […] But it is a heavy burden. So heavy that none could lay it on another. I do not lay it on you. But if you take it freely, I will say that your choice is right.” – JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings

This paragraph stirred something in me. I’m no theologian, but I at least know that our God has a divine will; he has a will for my life, for your life, for the whole world. But we are free to choose as we will. Sometimes that can be confusing, right? It is true that we can choose the wrong, a path that God had not desired for us. Does that mean he cannot still work our poor efforts for good? Of course not, he is God! All things are within the realm of His divine providence – nothing is beyond him. Sometimes he intervenes, and other times he lets nature take its course. But the greatest fruits come when our wills are aligned with that of our Maker’s.

I say this because when I read those words Tolkien wrote so beautifully, I saw a teaching that can be so hard for me to comprehend, written down in an accessible dialogue between and elf and a hobbit. Is it perfect and do I now understand fully how we, as created beings, can live freely while our God has a divine will for us? Nope. But it’s a start.

Elrond tells Frodo what he thinks, and he affirms the hobbit in his willingness, but also says that he would “not lay it on” him. Frodo is free to leave, to say no, to go back to the shire, or even to stay in Rivendell. If he does, there may be consequences that affect the free people of Middle Earth, including himself, but it is still his choice.

What if Frodo had been forced to take the ring? What if the Council had all looked upon him and demanded that he make this potentially impossible & deadly journey to Mordor? I imagine that would have made it all the more difficult. I imagine Frodo’s heart would have been colder towards his companions, or his longing for the shire may have been crippling. Or he may have felt angry and kept the ring for his own use along the way. Maybe not. While Frodo knew in his heart he must be the ring-bearer, he was the one to declare it – nobody else.

Furthermore, while Elrond deems Frodo’s decision to take the ring as the right one, he understands it is not easy. He, more than most, knows what an arduous task would lie ahead of Frodo and company. It is a burden that he could not give to Frodo, but one that Frodo must choose to bear on his own. That’s when the next line caught me as well. Immediately following the previous lines, Elrond says, “And though all the mighty elf-friends of old, Hador, and Hurin, and Turin, and Beren himself were assembled together, your seat should be among them.” By choosing the good, the right, and the just, in the face of such great temptation, there is greater hope and greater reward. (And to bring it back to the Catholic faith – is Tolkein hinting at Frodo living among the Angels and Saints for his brave choice?) It is precisely because Frodo takes up this burden, or this cross, with courage and free will, that he is worthy.

I think we can all agree that Frodo’s burden was great as well as his suffering. He could have chosen otherwise, he could have let someone else try to take the ring. But it was ordered that Frodo should take it – and all people were better off because of his yes that was freely given. And was he not ultimately rewarded for his choice?

 

“No one heals himself by wounding another.”

A mess of thoughts as I try to process something here…

We live this life. We believe it. We believe it so much that it hurts. We sacrifice all kinds of worldly things and look like fools to so many people, even our closest loved ones. Then there are those around us who don’t live this life, who don’t really believe, who don’t sacrifice, and things just seem to work out for them. And then we, who are trying (and sometimes greatly failing) to love and serve God and follow all the teachings of the Church, end up getting the short end of the stick. It’s a bold statement, and I understand we can never truly know the inner workings of another person’s heart – what often seems like perfection can be threaded with sorrow. But please just go with me.

I know there’s some deep theological questions here, and we have been trying to probe them and understand what we can while still leaving a big part of it up to faith. But emotionally…mentally…physically…spiritually…it’s hard.

At the end of the day, though, if I’m not offering joy to those around me who are experiencing great blessings, even if it seems unfair (how childish of me), than I am not glorifying God. Great theologians and philosophers have pondered the problem of pain and why God allows certain things to happen. I could ponder for years and end up back at square one. It’s not my job to understand everything in this life; it’s not my job to conclude why suffering exists and what exactly it means in my life. But I do have to love through it. Through tears, tantrums, isolated silence, I must love God and neighbor. And trust that all things work for good for those who love God. [Romans 8:28]

So that is what I will strive for. Love is not a feeling, it is a committed choice. And even though I may want to crawl in a hole sometimes and sit in self-pity, God calls us out of ourselves. By immense grace, he helps us to live a life of love that is infinitely greater than ourselves. And just because someone else is experiencing an abundant good, does not mean that I am robbed of good. So it is my duty and my privilege to celebrate for others…even if it hurts.

There. That is my rambling for today. Let’s be Saints, shall we?

 

 

 

2014: a year in review

2014 has been a big year for me. Yes, I got married. And that’s probably the biggest thing, but there’s more to it than that. I’ve remarked to people before about how graduating college was always the last thing on my horizon. Not that I didn’t have hopes for life afterwards, but I just had no concept about what was beyond May 2011. I spent my life looking forward to milestones that I could plan. In a sense, I had always known what to expect. And then upon leaving BU, the world was my oyster (as they say). And since then, it literally has been a whirlwind. Life has not slowed down or gotten less exciting, as I would have assumed it would. In fact, the past 3 1/2 years have been incredibly full with high’s and low’s, consolations and desolations, weddings and funerals, joy and sorrow. Now coming into 2014, I had an idea of how it would go since most of it revolved around planning our wedding. But it’s fun to look back on all the moments that have made up this year. So let’s get to it:

I truly can’t remember much that occurred in January except for a really cold winter. Oh…and I read the Hunger Games during a few snowy days early in the year. I still can’t decide if this was a big mistake or not. It probably was. I was bed ridden from these horrifying books for days and it consumed my mind for weeks. One day I’ll have enough clarity to explain what kind of experience I had.

Dear Lonnie was a part of my life. Any close friend of mine knows about Lonnie. The hotel I worked at had a hard time hiring an HR Director for a while, so instead of leaving the office to just me (which would have been just a blast…not), we brought in (for a second time) Lonnie: a retired HRD for the company who does task-force and was born & raised in Minnesota but lives in Sonoma, CA. This woman made so much of my work life bearable. The pair of us had SO many laughs, plenty of cries (you would too if you dealt with some of what went on), and a lot of deep life talks. I can say that I would not have made it through as much as I did in that place without her presence.

Who can forget YOLVO? You only Las Vegas Once…ish. My older sister planned my bachelorette pary in Vegas. This started out as a joke (because I’m not really a Vegas person), but it’s always been my life dream to see Celine Dion live. So off to Vegas we went. My older sister (sorry Kerry, 21’s only), my three best friends from home, and my four best friends from college. I was a bit nervous for this trip, but it turned out alright. Despite Celine being on holiday the one weekend I make it out (sad face x 100), we avoided the craziness of that city and just enjoyed some nice time together away from the negative degree parts of the country.

YOLVO 2014

Jenan became my sister when she married Keith on March 8th. Yes, just two months before me and Kevin. My parents deserve an award. They got married at the same church we did, and it was a truly remarkable time. Lots of joy and some really awesome photos. I love my family.

Keith & Jenan

Moments in Priscilla. Moving into married life, especially understanding it as a Vocation, means a lot of change. I savored the moments with my roommates. Since senior year in college, my roommates have been a big part of my life. It’s always been women I knew from the Catholic Center at BU, and my last house with them is still the home to many women I know. And one of our roommates entered religious life the day after my wedding, so those last few months were ones of big preparation!

In April, I got a new job. Despite the way I might feel about the way work is going, God truly had a hand in this change. Lonnie and I both left the hotel within the same week: her for California to enjoy life back at the winery and me for a new position trying out a different industry. The timing was impeccable as it meant I had off all of holy week, and I’d still be able to take all the wedding time off. And there are a number of other factors that made this a better opportunity now that I’d be getting married.

Last day at the hotel - bittersweet.

EASTER IN DETROIT. This was another grace of changing jobs. I had planned a trip to see my dear friend Elise for Easter on a whim one night, since I didn’t envision me and Kevin really making it out there once we got married (and Kevin would be in Duluth for this Easter), and was able to extend it a couple of days. This trip had a profound effect on me. We went to Christ the King parish in Ann Arbour, MI and all I can say is it was powerful. The whole trip was wrapped up in deep spiritual talks, visiting holy places, driving on 8 Mile (obviously), and just enjoying some of my last unmarried time with such a good friend. As we liked to say, we were bringing Easter Sunday to the city of perpetual holy Saturday.

Me & Elise on Easter Sunday!

There were a few last events before the wedding that Kevin and I shared with each other and with friends. The marathon in Providence was a festive day with my roommates plus some. Our day trip to Rockport was a lovely last hoorah as engaged people. Random bachelorette and bridal shower things with my friends. Packing up my room and finding keys from my last 3 apartments (oops).

Enjoying a nice Sunday in Rockport weeks before the wedding!

Providence. Just chillaxing.

And then I got married on May 30th. More about that here. And we honeymooned in the Canadian Rockies. More about that here. 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

I’ve enjoyed learning the ways of marriage and being a wife. In addition to the big things like growing in virtue and learning to sacrifice more, I’ve also learned how to cook spaghetti squash a number of ways, make my homemade coffee creamer, entertain large groups of friends with my single waffle maker, create a variety of meatless Friday meals that are also super tasty, crochet (sorta), plant an herb garden on our balcony (and endure the failures), and turn our small apartment into a cozy home.

I’ve attended three weddings from August to November (was a bridesmaid in one), and they were all wonderful. It was fun going to a wedding as a married person and being on the other side of it.

One of my closest friends, Ashlie & Josh, had a baby in November! Sarah and I were blessed to be able to throw her a shower at Josh’s parent’s home in Albany, NY. It was so great seeing her 8 months pregnant knowing that so soon they’d bring their first child into the world. And now he is here! John Paul! He is adorable. And I just know that they are doing a wonderful job, as hard as it can be not being very near family or close friends.

We enjoyed a Pennsylvania Thanksgiving this year with the whole family, shortly followed by a Philadelphia Eagles football game in DC, and annual tradition that we opened up to extended family this year since so many wouldn’t be home for Christmas. We stayed in my sister and brother-in-law’s house in Alexandria, VA and it was a blast.

Family uniforms, from Papa Krouchick. (missing: Kevin!)

And now I am in Duluth, celebrating the Christmas season! It’s been a real blessing being here. I’ve only been once before a year and a half ago, but it was a quick two days with lots of packed events. This time we’re able to take it slow. And we’ve gotten in some good quality time with his mom, brother, and uncle as well as some close friends.

It’s crazy to think that those have been the big things. Kevin and I have experienced quite a bit of life in 2014. God is blessing us abundantly as we continue to find the rhythm of our day-to-day. There have been some trials, but we’re learning to trust the Lord in new ways. We’ve felt an outpouring of grace especially in these last couple of months as we try to look ahead to this next year. I have a feeling 2015 will be just as full of a year, but in a much different way. We will have many big life decisions to make and we pray God continues to be generous to us and that He will guide us to where he wants us. And we hope that we can continue to be generous in return; we truly have so much to be grateful for.