Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Letter to My Future Husband

Dear Future Husband,

I’ve been praying for a long time. First, I prayed for guidance in what to do with my life. Should I become a religious sister or a wife? How can I best serve the Lord and bring others close to God? For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt called to the married life.

I’ve been anxiously awaiting the day I will meet you (assuming we haven’t met already) and I anticipate the day I may call you my own. I have many hopes and dreams for our marriage, and I can guarantee you it will be a great ride.

I remember praying with some young women at a retreat one day, and one of them prayed aloud for her future spouse. I thought this was the most incredible thing. So I wrote this prayer for you, and I’ve been praying it since then:

A Prayer for My Future Companion


I pray for you to find God, and grow close to Him, so that His grace may guide you through everything life throws your way.

I pray that you will make a promise to remain pure, not only sexually, but in how you speak, what you watch, how you dress, and how you view our brothers and sisters in Christ.

I pray that though you may fall into temptation and sin, you will continue to seek God’s mercy and live a life devoted to Him.

I pray for God to bless us with a happy family, whether His will be for us to have twelve children or none at all.

I pray that I can help you grow in your faith, and for you to help me grow in mine, so that we may be a “cord of three strands not easily broken”. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

I pray that we may love each other as the Song of Songs describes: passionately, steadfastly, and eternally, like God loves us.

I pray for God to grant us strength through the crosses we will bear together, so that we may remain side-by-side till the end.

I pray that we may fall deeper in love with every new day He blesses us with together, and for those days to be great in number.


I’ve learned, from a handful of guys who once called me their girlfriend, to let go of perfection. I know that neither one of us is perfect, so it only makes sense that our marriage won’t be perfect.

I can’t promise you no fights, a pristine home or constant bliss. In fact, that’s pretty, gosh darn unreasonable. But I can promise you a lifetime of crazy, loyal love from one heck of a woman. And I can’t wait for the days I can spend by your side, living our lives to the absolute fullest.

Until then, I’ll be patiently praying.

Faithfully yours,


Friday, October 11, 2013

Bearing Our Cross

Suffering is a part of life. We all learn that at some point or another. Often times we ask God, “Why me?”

I’m immensely blessed. And I know for a fact that I have it better than most. But I’ve borne my share of crosses, and I consider them blessings as well. Enduring these sufferings were the hardest things I’ve ever been faced with, but they’ve brought me so much closer to my Father in Heaven than I ever would have gotten without them.

You wouldn’t think by the time someone is sixteen years old that they would have had countless MRIs, a spinal tap, kidney surgery, been looked at by a famous brain surgeon and been diagnosed with a mysterious autonomic disease.

Well that’s me.

It all started back in seventh grade. I came down with a serious case of mononucleosis. I missed a couple weeks of school and was never the same after that. It took about a year of extreme exhaustion, dizziness and frequent sickness for us to get me looked at.

Towards the end of my 8th grade year, we were referred over to Blank Children’s Hospital to be seen by a Dr. Elliott, an older guy with a great sense of humor. “Books not boys,” he’d always say to me. His lightheartedness made the pokes, prods and stick much more bearable.

After a series of testing, he concluded that I had developed POTS, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, (a form of dysautonomia) from the mono. To put it simply, I am susceptible to minor headaches, dizziness, heart palpitations (especially when changing positions), fainting, suppressed immunity, CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome) and many other exciting side effects.

Everyday it was a struggle to simply get out of bed and make it through the day. I was seen by a pediatric cardiologist, who experimented with a series of medicines to regulate the palpitations. Long story short, I was having some crazy hallucinations, so we decided to go another route.

I was put on a cocktail of other crazy medicines (some trying to counteract the side effects of prescriptions I was already taking) in hopes of letting me live like a normal kids. (If you consider taking more pills than all your grandparents COMBINED “normal”.)

My morning dosages felt like this:

One day I decided to go cold turkey and see how I felt without the meds. Magically…

Bam. Freshman year hits. I’m having a blast in high school with band, show choir and everything. I’m not nearly what I used to be, but I was feeling way better. We get to homecoming weekend with a jam-packed schedule, and I wake up the next Monday with an excruciating migraine.

We didn’t think anything of it. I was run down, tired. I’ll pick back up in a day or two. Besides, the fun I had just had at my very first high school dance was totally worth it.

(Yeah, that's me on the far right. Working that freshman brace face!)

Boy were we wrong. For the next 6 months, every single day was accompanied with a headache. Most of which were migraines that made me vomit and gave me trouble seeing. I missed forty percent of my freshman year.

I was referred, by Dr. Elliott, over to one of the two pediatric neurologists in Des Moines, an older, short, dry Indian man named Dr. Tripathy (whom we actually grew really close to by the end of it all). Again, we went through a series of tests, including MRIs, eye tests, going to the University of Iowa to be seen by a neuro ophthalmologist, and even got in to see a world-renowned brain surgeon.

The brain surgeon thoroughly examined my MRI results and concluded that the blood flow on one side of my brain had been cut off, but, by the grace of God, had rerouted itself. This still wasn’t the answer they were looking for.

He ordered a spinal tap, on Good Friday of 2012, to find out about the pressure readings in my cranium. Let’s just say that the procedure didn’t go as planned, and I was lucid for multiple stabs (literally) at getting a reading. And, of course, the reading came up negative.

Here comes the big shocker. The migraines stopped on a dime that day. And I was like:


(insert Hallelujah chorus here)

Little did anybody know that this victory was for much more than my physical health. Amidst all of these physical sufferings, I was suffering inside just as much, if not more.

Having to miss out on so many events, classes and rehearsals really set me back in school. My grades dipped, my relationships weren’t as strong and I started to lose faith in myself and in God. My already low self esteem took a nosedive.

Then the thoughts came. Bad thoughts.

“What would it be like if I were gone? Would anyone care? I’m so much more of a burden than anything.”

I felt like I was in a dark, endless tunnel of physical and emotional pain. Would I ever feel better? Did anybody love me? I started to shut people out and my attitude grew sour. I felt like life wasn’t worth living.

I sat in the bathroom one night with an old bottle of heart medication. I stared at it, trying to muster up the courage to open it and chug. Something stopped me. Not tonight.

This went on for a few months, intermingled with cutting my ribs with shaving razors and growing further from my faith.  

One particular day will stick with me for the rest of my life. My alarm went off. My head was pounding, as usual, and it was going to be a long day. I knew I needed to try to go to school so I could make all my rehearsals for upcoming performances. I laid in my bed, unable to move, and incredibly drained, both emotionally and physically. For the first time in months, I prayed. I prayed harder than ever before.

God help me. I just need to get through this day.

It was the most raw moment of my life. I had a huge revelation. I could almost hear the Lord speaking directly to me. It totally overwhelmed me and I broke down. I had been neglecting the relationship with my dear Father for so long, and He had finally come to my aid.

Happiness is a choice. I was choosing to let the suffering drag me down, instead of rising above it all and accepting the suffering as an opportunity to grow closer to my God.

From that day forward, everything seemed easier. I was able to find joy in every aspect of my life. I went into everything I did with a sense of tenacity and excitement and my life was filled with such beauty. I could see the Lord in everyone and everything.

Going to Mass on Sundays was no longer a chore, but rather an incredibly moving experience. I looked forward to that beautiful time with my Lord every week. And I still do. I thank the Lord for coming in when he did, because I wasn’t out of the woods yet.

During all of this, I had experienced intermittent back and side pain. It got increasingly worse during the summer before my sophomore year. I would wake up writhing in pain, puking, clenching my sides, unable to move.

It was back to urgent care for me. The doctor first told me I had a kidney stone, but after some imaging tests, I was referred to a urologist for a second opinion. My doctor, a short, dry, older man (yes, another one) gave us the news that I had a birth defect that caused a blockage in my ureter (the tube that drains your kidney to your bladder). And it had been backing up my kidney for sixteen years. We had two options: to medicate the pain for the rest of my life, or surgery.

Since the first option sounded slightly ridiculous, we ended up opting for surgery. Of course, we were a week out from my first day of school. So I spent four days in Blank Children’s Hospital in recovery, and missed my first day of school. I had so many great friends visit me, and I had such an incredible support system. My family was there every step of the way, helping me with whatever I needed.

The recovery was rough, but I finished the last stage of it the day before homecoming of sophomore year. And I had the time of my life.

(I'll bet you can guess which one is me.)

So, in some ways, my suffering actually saved me. Yes, as an imperfect human being, I asked God why He was putting all of this on me. But it taught me to really put things into perspective. I’m alive. I have people who love me. I have a good relationship with my Creator. What more could I ask for?

After these experiences, I’ve been able to face the trials of life with greater ease and faith. And I no longer let them drag me down to that low place. I am thankful that I have been through all of this, because it made me who I am today. God has given me the incredible gift of using my rocky past as a way to help other people bear their own crosses.

I can honestly say I am happier than I have ever been, and life gets better by the day. Thank you God, for this beautiful gift of life!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Body Image

I weigh 140 pounds.

I know what you’re thinking. Did she just say that? Why would she share something that 99% of women would never, ever, ever say?

Well, why do we make it such a huge deal?

I’m a curvy girl. I wear size 11 jeans, and a size 8 dress. I hit 100 pounds in 5th grade, much before everyone else. I’m not big by any means, but I’m certainly not tiny. I’m active and I don’t eat a ton of junk food. My daily routine is fueled by coffee (yes, with WHOLE milk) or tea, I eat when I’m hungry, I shoot for whole foods and I don’t obsess over calories.

It’s called “being healthy”.

I struggle, from time to time, about not being where I want to be, but I try to remind myself that God has made this vessel in His image, and it’s beautiful. It’s immensely selfish how we choose to focus so intensely on one aspect of our being. There is so much more to the human person than the physical appearance.

Back in middle school, when I was a hard-core, 20-hour-a-week dancer, I viewed my body very differently.

“I’m fat.”

The phrase was thrown around so nonchalantly in the dance studio by my twiggy, ballerina friends.

“Look at my flabby stomach.” “I need to lay off the sweets.”

For 20+ hours a week, I was exposed to this negativity. What was I, a mere twelve-year-old girl, supposed to think when a dance instructor put belts around our tummies to help us “suck in”?

Fat. Fat. Fat.

I became obsessed with slimming down. Breakfast? Unheard of. Lunch? Applesauce and a tortilla, which I usually ended up throwing away. Dinner? Celery, a couple slices of deli ham and a tortilla, usually eaten at dance. No snacking, no desserts, and one soda a day for energy. Sweatpants and baggy sweatshirts became my best friends.

This went on for months. My eating habits became secretive. My skin grew pale, my hair lost its shine, and my energy level plummeted. I was running on a couple hundred calories and caffeine. When I felt I had eaten too much, I’d throw up. On top of that, I was burning thousands of calories dancing everyday.

During my freshman year, I distinctly remember overhearing some upperclassman girls in my show choir talk about their jean sizes at a competition.

“I’m all the way up to a size 3!” “You think you’re big? I’m a 5!”

This self-degradation went on for a long time, while a shy, size 11 freshman (myself) sat in the corner feeling more overweight and disgusting by the minute.

One day I decided to go extreme and not eat anything for a couple days. I remember feeling even more dizzy and spaced out than usual during class. At lunch, it took all the self control I could muster to avoid eating a bagel. A good friend of mine asked me why I wasn’t eating, and I shared my plan to shed the extra pounds. She could tell what I had gotten myself into was dangerous, and got help from a guidance counselor and my parents. Had it not been for her, who knows where I would have ended up. I was fortunate enough to be pulled out (kicking and screaming) of this destructive lifestyle by people who loved me.

I learned to start seeing myself how God sees me: as a beautiful daughter of the risen King.

I re-learned how good it felt to chow down on a burger every now and again.

(And boy I’m glad I did!)

I learned, through observing some amazing, REAL people, that your BMI does not determine your awesomeness. Some of the most incredible people I know aren’t “slim”, but the sheer beauty of their whole, happy selves is what I see. Not the “extra pounds”.

Finally, I learned that how we talk about ourselves greatly impacts the children around us. We must train ourselves to be positive in our speech so our young ones grow up to know their great worth. Do you want your negativity to be the reason a wonderful, little girl starts to think she’s not beautiful?

And besides, how messed up is our society to consider this:

...more attractive than this?

Nowadays, I'm happy, healthy and I take good care of my body. No, I’m not “thin”, by society’s standards (most of us aren’t). But you know what? My doctor says I’m perfectly fine. I think I’m perfectly fine. And most important of all, my Creator thinks I’m INFINITELY better than “perfectly fine”. There’s so much more to me than my size.

So friends, eat food, take care of yourself, and be confident, but remember that you are eternally loved, no matter what the number is on the scale.