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Growing Pains – My Recovery from an Eating Disorder

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By an Anonymous Guest Blogger.

Photo credit: Donna Irene Photography.

Rarely does any kind of fruitful growth happen without some discomfort.

Little 5’6” 120 pound me struggled to find peace in my changing body. Evolving into womanhood is not easy. It, like so many other countless things, requires a process. And a process requires patience.

I have journeyed the journey and walked the walk to find total acceptance of the woman God made me and the body He gave me, but each day it’s given anew, and the embrace comes anew.

In high school, I wrestled with the curves that marked my coming of age. Junior year was the hardest. I had gained weight from the sedentary lifestyle of recovery after tearing my PCL in a skiing accident that winter.  Growing up, I had never had to TRY to be skinny. I was always active and it was natural for me. But that winter on the couch, out of commission, took a toll on me.

I tipped the scales at 140 pounds and I resented myself for it. 

It was never diagnosed, but I can look back at the years following and see that I struggled with anorexia. I would go a full school day with only a corn muffin or an apple to sustain me. I would work out for hours at a time, take back to back spin classes, and weight-lift to help burn more fat.

The pounds did shed. And I can say that struggle as I did, I was always in touch with reality. I could see when I was losing weight and when I hit my target, and I would be happy then. The scale never dropped below 109. And I maintained an average of 115 with a rigorously restrictive diet and a time-consuming, compulsive work out plan. I did not miss a day at the gym. And I did not have peace in my body.

On Thanksgiving day, I declared myself a vegetarian, a concise and healthy way to cut calories and avoid the stuffed food coma nap on the couch. 

The following Easter of my senior year, I declared myself a vegan, an even more restrictive diet and a sure way of cutting calories and keeping the pounds from climbing onto my bones. I was trying to be healthy about it. But the veganism proved far too taxing on my body. After a month of it, I had lost fifteen pounds, weighing in at 100 meager pounds. Reason kicked in, and I knew I couldn’t continue at that pace, so I switched gears back to vegetarianism.

Freshman year of college started up and my oldest brother Joseph decided he would join me at Ave Maria University to complete his master’s while I embarked on my bachelor’s. Protective brother that he was, I think he knew I needed him.

I would eat at the cafeteria and opt only for salads, turning my nose up at the greasy fries and burgers loaded on friends’ plates. I would scrutinize my body and compare it to the curves, or lack thereof, of my peers. I would be jealous of the girls with boyish figures and squirm in my own womanly body. 

I would get depressed and binge. I would be invited out for dinner and decline. I would work out, then work out more. I would study, then study more. And if a paper kept me from my normal predinner work out, I would hit the gym at 1 am. EVERY day, I needed to sweat. It was how I controlled the fat from seeping onto my hips and waste.

Control.

That was what it came down to. And it was my brother, Joseph, who showed me that. 

On my birthday that November, he came to my dorm to surprise me with a piece of cake, topped with ice cream, sprinkles, and a lit candle. 

And my response wasn’t the one any healthy girl would have. Though I felt loved by the gesture, I was repulsed by the notion of eating something so unhealthy and so full of despised calories. 

I blew out the candle and thanked him, but told him I wasn’t hungry for any cake. 

Perceptive brother that he was, he looked into my eyes and asked why. It was the first time I had been confronted for my abnormally restrictive eating. He waited for an answer, and when no words came and his eyes were still searching mine for a reason, tears came. Because I want control. Because I’m afraid that if I indulge, I’ll want more, and I’ll give in to more, and then I’ll hate myself, and spend countless hours sweating in the gym to try to undo it. Because I hate my body and the way God made it. Because I wish I had no curves. Because I’m trying to be perfect and it’s HARD.

The philosopher in him did not react to my rash words, but responded to the eruption he had evoked. Years of holding back and not talking came out in one powerful protest. I thought I’d want to take all the words back. But I saw them scatter. They were gone and they were out of me. I was emptier, lighter, for the first time in years.

I felt the first wave of healing come over me. 

He did not judge me. He only looked at me with a flood of sympathy and compassion. In that moment I was not alone in my battle. 

There was a pause. And words exchanged. Words that struck my heart more than my memory. What I know is that he called me out, in loving, fraternal correction. He made me see how twisted my world was, how much my gaze was focused on ME, selfishly, and how sad that was.

He challenged me to start going to daily mass. So I did. And I started going to confession, to talk through my struggle with vanity and over-scrupulousness. In days of temptation to revert to my unhealthy self-absorbed ways, I would go to adoration, where I would kneel before the Blessed Sacrament and ask our Lord to empty me of me and fill me with Himself. 

And His grace was sufficient. He blessed me with a friend who pulled me from my self-imposed isolation. I began to model my eating after her. It was like therapy. I witnessed her eat FULL meals and not gain weight. I didn’t know this was possible. We worked out together, in moderation. She taught me to balance my life, through her own beautiful, natural, ordered, lived example.

She showed me what freedom from compulsion looked like. 

My weight stabilized without a battle. I thought less and less about the number on the scale. I thought more and more about the friendships I was making. 

God pulled me out of the trenches I had been stuck in for so long. And there was Joy.

Why do I share this story? I share it because I don’t think I was as alone as I thought I was. I think the crosses I carried are crosses shared by many women. And I want to help them. 

I want to share 10 seeds of practical wisdom–learned and lived advice–for any woman struggling with an eating disorder (whether it’s diagnosed or not):

PRAY. Surrender your struggle to Christ, and He will help you. If you don’t know what to pray, repeat the same intention again and again. “Lord, take me from myself and give me to yourself.”; “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew as steadfast spirit within me”; “Lord, let there be less of me and more of you;” “Lord, help me to love myself as you love me.”

TALK. We are weakest when we think we are alone. But the truth is, we are never alone. Find counsel, and open up.

BE STRUCTURED. Commit to three solid meals a day. Have a work out routine. The ordered life is the sanctified life. Strive for holiness in the minute virtues of daily living.

DON’T SNACK. Snacking lends itself to disorder. If you need something to carry you through from one meal to the next, limit it to whole nuts or fresh fruits and veggies.

DRINK WATER. All day. It’s so good for your body and your energy level. Want some flavor? Squeeze a lemon into it or infuse it with cucumber or fresh mint!

BE COMMUNAL. Going out with friends is GOOD FOR YOU! It will bring laughter to your life, and keep you from idleness, the devil’s best friend. Try to make eating more about the communal aspect than about self-indulgence. One of the best Lenten sacrifices I made was when I gave up eating alone for the full 40 days. It taught me total detachment from my own appetite, and it enforced the importance of sharing meals Eucharistically. 

DON’T LOOK AT THE NUMBERS ON THE SCALE. Just focus on being healthy, all around. Muscle weighs more than fat, anyway.

STOP THINKING ABOUT YOU. Think about others.

FOCUS ON THE POSITIVES. It’s tempting to tell ourselves what we should NOT be doing – “Don’t eat now”; “Don’t think about food”; “Don’t crave that piece of cake.” But the problem with this way of thinking is that it puts all your energy into what you should NOT be thinking about. So instead, build your thought process around what you want to be doing rather than eating. Go fishing”; “Write thank you notes”; “Tidy up the house”; “Start an art project” – Think about all the action-oriented good that there is to be enjoyed in life, and pursue it!

REJOICE IN YOUR BEAUTY AND THE BEAUTY OF OTHERS. It’s easy to get caught in the trap of comparison. The truth is, however, that we are all incredibly unique. There are all different kinds of beautiful! When you see someone whose beauty catches your eye, thank God for the gift of His creation! Do not scowl that your eyelashes are not as long as hers; that your legs are not as toned as hers; that your hair is not as flawlessly styled as hers. This kind of thought leads to jealousy, and that’s poison for the soul.  Instead, admire what it is that makes her beautiful. Learn from her. And rejoice for what makes you YOU.  God admires you! Let His love radiate through everything.

P.S. You are enough.

To my girls

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By Sarah Kroger | Music Artist & Guest Blogger

Photo credit: Donna Irene Photography

“Jesus is the one who sees you when you feel the most invisible.”

This past weekend I had the honor of serving at a women’s conference in Dallas. It had been a great day already, filled with joy and powerful moments of prayer. There I was, just quietly listening to a beautiful talk by Sister Amata (of the Sisters of Life). All of a sudden, my mind just stopped. I couldn’t get past that line. “Jesus is the one who sees you..when you feel the most invisible.” I don’t know why it struck me so much in that moment. All I know is that I couldn’t shake it.

God sees us. He knows us by name. He doesn’t want us to hide. He wants us to draw near.

So why do we still hide sometimes?

I’ve been skinny my whole life. It doesn’t matter what size or age you are, self-image is almost always an issue for women. I remember countless times being made fun of for my weight in middle school. Girls would come up to me and ask if I was anorexic. The lies started. I remember thinking, “Maybe if I was just a little bit bigger, I would be pretty.” I was constantly judging myself on the way my legs looked in shorts or the way my arms looked bony in a sleeveless top. Even though I had a loving mom who told me I was beautiful, I couldn’t shake the pressure for perfection at school. I was the only one in my group of friends that didn’t date until college. Enter in a whole other set of lies. I felt like I wasn’t good enough for anyone. I wasn’t interesting enough, pretty enough, funny enough, smart enough, I was too into my faith etc. It seemed like a non-stop attack from the enemy. The pressures built and built until one day, I heard a message that changed my life forever. It was a simple message that I had heard before, but it had never quite stuck until my youth minister drilled it into us at a women’s session on a retreat.

Jesus loves me. He has claimed me as His.

You see, to the God of the universe, I am everything. I matter. I am loved beyond comprehension. The God who made the stars made every single piece of my body and He loves every single piece. No matter what size it is. No matter what the world thinks is acceptable or pleasing. He loves every single part. He even loves my forgetful mind, my crazy emotions, my (sometimes) klutzy side. He sees me when I feel my ugliest, in my darkest moments of temptation, in joy, in sorrow, in every season. Whether people see me as smart or funny or love able, God sees me. God takes me, just as I am. And the same is true for you, dear sisters.

If we truly believed this, if we as women knew, without a shadow of a doubt, our dignity and value in the Lord, I know this world would be a different place.

There is a song I’ve been listening to recently that has brought a lot of healing to my heart on this matter recently. It’s called “Wonder” by Bethel. The lyrics talk about being caught up in wonder and awe of God, and seeing beauty in everything He does.

May we never lose our wonder

Wide eyed and mystified, may we be just like a child

Starring at the beauty of the King

You are beautiful in all your ways

While I know that the song is supposed to be us singing to God, I can’t help but hear God singing it over me.

I know it’s not as easy as hearing a “God loves you!” message to get over the lies that you’ve maybe struggled with for years. It has taken me a long time to get to the point of loving my body, the way God made it. It’s taken me a long time to let Him draw close and show me exactly what He loves about me. Today, don’t be afraid to let God see you. To let God see the mess. To talk to Him about your struggles. Ask Him to show you exactly how He sees you. Pray for the grace to see yourself through His eyes every. single. day. Surround yourself with people who see you as Christ does. This life is too short to hate the way you look. It is a daily choice to see yourself as beautiful and good.

This is my prayer today. That we as women may always be in awe of who God has made us to be / is making us to be. That we never lose sight of the amazing, beautiful, powerful ways He formed us in His image. May we never forget that when we glance in the mirror, we are staring at a reflection of the beauty of the King. May we know that He makes our ways beautiful. He makes everything beautiful. He has the power to create a stunning portrait out of the messy pieces of our lives.

Jesus sees you, today and every day. His heart is on fire with love for you. Just as you are.

P.S. You are enough.

This post was originally published on Sarah’s Tumblr. Check out Sarah’s website and “like” her on Facebook. She has amazing talent.

The Virgin Woman

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By Erin McNew | Staff Writer

Photo credit: Donna Irene Photography

As women, we get caught up in the beliefs of the world. We get caught up in the world’s thinking that we have to wear this new cosmetic or have this new hairstyle in order to be beautiful in the eyes of our male counterparts. We get caught up in all of these material things and forget that we can establish beauty in the eyes of others simply through our decisions and our actions.

Did you know that purity is beautiful? I believe that committing your body to the Lord before a man makes you beautiful. And as many mornings as I wake up, do my hair, put on make-up, and throw on a dress, in my heart I know that I’m beautiful without all those things.

Purity, chastity, and virginity have all come to be somewhat strange words for men and women I believe. For so many individuals they’ve grown to be inherently intimidating or fear inspiring words. And coming from someone who strives to adopt those words to their identity in the eyes of Christ, I find that kind of sad. I find it discouraging to know that the decisions of myself and others have grown to be things that have the potential to make a person undesirable and strange. Because I feel as if that’s discounting a personal choice. And, honestly, sometimes it’s almost discounting a personal feat.

I would venture to say that humans have the inherent desire to be sexually active once they come of a particular age. And that to refrain from that desire is almost to refrain from instinct. Not to flatter myself or anything, but it takes a lot of strength and focus not to act on those desires. And it takes a lot of wisdom to be able to recognize those things that will increase those desires within you. Humans have a natural want to live in communion with others. And it’s difficult to remind your mind and your heart that sex doesn’t guarantee that when your body is telling you it does.

For those who don’t understand why purity is in some sense of the word attractive, I would honestly venture to say they don’t understand. Hard work is attractive. Passion is attractive. Cleanliness is attractive. And, just as those things apply to our lives in general, they apply to purity and chastity. An individual who works hard to preserve the best of their physical self for a spouse they have yet come to know is attractive. An individual who has a passion for the Lord and his promises of redemption, healing, and new life is attractive. And an individual who pursues cleanliness of heart that it might function properly in the context of love and affection is attractive.

I commend the man who ventures to pursue the heart of a chaste woman. Because each and every day I’m becoming increasingly well acquainted with the difficulties this brings. It’s hard to mold your heart to a value it does not inherently hold for itself in the interest of another. I get that. I get the questions that must go through your head. I get that you must wonder if it’s worth it. I get that friction and frustration must be encountered when you desire something your significant other refuses. But I’m telling you that despite any argumentation or spats that may result from this disjunction, she appreciates your effort. It’s hard. It’s hard to justify expecting that of someone for the sake of nothing but your own heart. But there’s little you respect more than someone willing to try. The human heart is well versed in the art of empathy. And it’s in that art in which so much of your strength lies. It’s that art that lead our Savior to give his life for us. And it’s that art that gives romance a heartbeat. For love is not a selfish endeavor, but rather on that thrives in an environment bathed in selflessness.

Your body is woven from the light of heaven. Are you aware that its purity and swiftness is the envy of angels and its courage keeps even devils away. 

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. – Philippians 2:4

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. –  1 John 4:18

P.S. You are enough.

You can only love as far as you forgive

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By Maura Byrne | Founder of Made in His Image

Photo credit: Donna Irene Photography

It was May 22, 2009 and I was in Colorado taking a week of graduate classes at the Augustine Institute. That morning I had gotten up early with one of the other students to go for a run in the mountains. We had returned in time to shower and make it to Mass without being late. The chapel was about a fourth of a mile walk from where we were staying and as I was walking there that morning Dr. Burns was walking ahead of me by himself. I recognized him by a picture I had seen, but had never formally met him.

I put a little spring into my step so I could catch up to him and meet him. As I approached him I extended my hand to introduce myself, Hi, I’m Maura. It’s a pleasure to meet you. He had a distinct presence about him; my brother James has the same, so I knew he had been in the military. But there was something else there too, he radiated peace, yet kept close to himself. I was intrigued.

Once inside the chapel, he chose to sit in the last row by himself. I sat several rows in front of him and when I turned around to give the woman behind me the sign of peace I saw him again. I knew in my heart that I was in the presence of someone great I just didn’t know why. I wonder what he is going to talk about this morning, I thought to myself.

Dr. Burns was our third professor and speaker that morning; and I sat up a little straighter when he walked in. The week was exceedingly condensed and I was exhausted; I think I may have dosed off before his talk and was determined to vigorously take notes during his class. Only the Lord knew that instead He wanted me to be still and listen with my heart.

At first he talked about the New Evangelization and how the Church exists to evangelize. And to be completely candid, I was slightly disappointed because I had heard countless talks about the New Evangelization, not that one could ever hear enough. I just thought he was going to talk about something that was going to leave me breathless. Little did I know as I sat there drinking watered down coffee that everything I claimed to believe in was about to be tested in a dramatic way.

I remember thinking, I could really use a real cup of coffee or a few shots of espresso. Then Dr. Burns said, Is forgiveness possible?What? You were just talking about the New Evangelization and I was day dreaming about a good cup of coffee and taking a nap, how did we jump from that to forgiveness?

I instantaneously snapped to attention. Dr. Burns proceeded to share the story of an abusive man in his life with the class. There was one particular day in his childhood that he was describing that caused me to quiver. I saw someone who had hurt me in his story and started to relive a memory I had repressed for so long.

Tears began to well in my eyes and he glanced at me. He continued his story and then my tears turned to torrents. Dr. Burns paused and said he was available after class to speak with me. He had to stop half way through the story to compose himself and it was actually comforting to me to see that it was okay to cry.

When he had finished describing the trauma he told us about the beauty of reconciliation. He shared about how he was driving to Texas and listening to a tape in the car when the speaker started talking about forgiveness. The speaker told her listeners that when we forgive from deep within, we not only free ourselves but free the other person as well. God’s grace and our free will to choose to forgive will release the one who has caused harm. Dr. Burns said that we must forgive in order to be forgiven. For that gift we need grace and must frequent the sacraments and ask God how to forgive. God promises that He will not give us anything He can’t handle, for His grace is sufficient.

He continued to tell us how he pulled over on the side of the road and begged God to help him live out that message and prayed for the grace to forgive his father from his heart. As he grew in God’s wisdom, Dr. Burns realized that he needed to forgive not only his father, but his mother for allowing the children to be subjected to harm and ultimately he needed to forgive himself for believing it was his fault.

I could never compose a string of words deep enough to describe how God used Dr. Burns to inspire me to forgive those who have hurt me. As I sat in front of the Blessed Sacrament one last time before returning home I begged our Father in Heaven to help me put into practice Dr. Burn’s talk. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. “For gold is tested in fire.”

Coming home I wrote out a battle plan, which I still refer to daily. More than five years later, I am in utter awe at what our Father has done. When God said He would never leave His children; He meant it. And His grace is like the ocean, vast and deep.

Forgiveness is a choice and I am exceedingly blessed to be privileged to have met Dr. Burns. He is one of the most humble, courageous and encouraging people I have ever met. I am blessed to know him and thankful for his witness. His courage and virtue changed my life and opened my heart to the beauty of forgiveness. 

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”

P.S. You are enough.

Keep your head up darling

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By  Erin McNew | Staff Writer

Photo credit: Donna Irene Photography

Keep your head up, little fighter. You can do this. I know sometimes it’s hard. But you’re not alone. He’s right there with you. He’s taking your hand and he’s guiding you to more stable ground. You’re almost there. Just hold on a little bit longer.

Tell yourself that every day you wake up and find that life is still harder than you imagined. Hold on just a little bit longer. Because better days are coming your way. You’re going to know joy and companionship and acceptance and love again. I promise. A few dark moments doesn’t mean you’re headed for a dark life. You are basking in light.

Don’t give up. Don’t think that it’s over. Everything is just beginning. Life and beauty are just beginning to make themselves manifest. Let hope and faith embrace you and lift you up. You deserve to fly. And God will give you the wings to enable you to fly to your dreams. You don’t have to give them up. Just because someone tells you they’re out of your reach or impossible doesn’t mean they are. You determine your dreams. And with a heart committed to Christ you will achieve them without question.

Don’t just commit your efforts or your works to Him -  commit your life to Him. Give it all to Him. Give it all to Him and watch what was once yours be turned into more than you could ever imagine.

Never give up, little fighter. You’re almost there. You’re so very close to the place you were created to be. You may have taken a few wrong turns along the way, but there’s nothing to worry about, darling. They were considered by the heart of God and promised to fit into the story of your life. He’s writing your story along with you. And with Him it is undeniably a story of redemption and forgiveness. So let the tears fall if they need to. Because your faults and misgivings are no longer the sum of your whole. Let them wash away every thought in your mind that tells you that you can’t do something. Let them silence the voices of those who couldn’t find it in themselves to believe in you. I believe in you. He believes in you. We believe in your ability to do great things and to affect the world around you.

Chin up, darling. Look on your life with pride. Because it is so incredible. It is the most amazing testament of love and devotion. Did you know that you’re loved? Did you know that when you felt most unlovable there was a Being in this world that would have done anything for you? He hung on the cross while your name was whispered to His heart. He saw everything. He saw everything you’re ashamed of. And He wanted you. He wanted you more than anyone could ever want you. He wanted to spend eternity with you. He wanted to know you. He wanted to share perfection with you. He wanted to invite you into His family. He saw you and knew you were worth it in every way.

You are worth it, little fighter. You are wanted. You are cherished. You are consistently pursued. You are valued. You are enough in every way. Keep your head up, little fighter. Fight the good fight of faith and let the word surrender never become a part of your vocabulary. You’re going to win.

Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. - 1 Timothy 6:12

P.S. You are enough.

Dating: It’s not a fairytale, it’s work

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By Maura Byrne | Founder of Made in His Image

Photo credit: Donna Irene Photography

Our society tries to make women believe that dating is supposed to be like the TV show Sex and the City. Well let me tell you something, that is a lie from the pit of hell. That’s not dating, that’s glorified objectification and impurity at its finest. An authentic man doesn’t taint a woman’s purity. An authentic man stands up to heroically protect it, and vice versa. And this takes work, and a lot of it.

I know a gentleman who was attracted to a Catholic woman’s beauty. He desperately wanted to date her, but every time he asked her out, she said no. After several rejections, he smartly figured out that he would have to change his lifestyle if he was to win her heart. He started going to Mass, praying, and living morally. He continued to develop his relationship with God, then asked her out again. She said yes, and today they are married.

A woman by her very nature is a mystery. And when she conducts herself in accordance with the way in which God created her, she reflects this beauty and appeal in a unique way. When a woman is authentic, she calls a man to a higher standard by her very nature. Men are naturally attracted to her authentic beauty and integrity. External beauty may attract a man, but internal beauty keeps him.

Ladies, don’t ever conform to immorality to attract a man. You are worth more than that. In fact, your worth is beyond human comprehension. God created the universe, surely he didn’t forget about your future. Every woman yearns for a man who is going to protect and cherish her. My question for you is: are you conducting yourself in such a way to attract a virtuous man? Embrace the beauty of your femininity, and you will inspire a man to step up. So, instead of finding him, let him find you. Men have an inherent desire to pursue a woman, let them do that. We need to stop blaming men and become the women we were created to be, whether you are in a relationship or not.

Wait for a man who will hold your hand, instead of touching you inappropriately. Men like that do exist. And what you need to do is embrace the beauty of being an authentic woman, and you will attract just such a man.

Remember, “when a boy calls you cute, he likes your face. When he calls you hot, he likes your body. When he calls you beautiful, he likes your heart.” So wait for a man who calls you beautiful, for this is what you deserve, because that’s what you are. Let’s be authentic women ladies! Let’s embrace the beauty of our femininity.

You can’t have a relationship without vulnerability. 

And this takes work.

Let’s be real, relationships aren’t like all of the hollywood movies that are out there. There are no perfect relationships. Relationships take work, because love is a choice, not a fuzzy feeling. And the one you love should be fought for because love requires loving all of a person, the good and the not so good. Love is work. And it’s hard work. And it’s often the most challenging to love the one that is closest to us, because they are the ones that annoy us the most. But they are also the ones that make us smile because they know us, because they love us deeply. Love is desiring the good of the beloved, to sacrifice and serve the beloved without asking anything in return. To empty ourselves out of authentic sacrificial love, this is hard work and requires grace. This is love. 

The human heart is a complex thing to understand. In fact, I don’t think we can ever truly comprehend the depth of the human heart and all it’s facilities. It can love passionately one minute and be crushed the next, but admits the joy and pain it keeps beating, keeping us alive. Our hearts can give, feel pain, joy, sorrow, and be pierced with disappointment. I think everyone has experienced the pain of losing someone close to them. It hurts.

God is the ultimate example of vulnerability. He came not just to give a piece of His heart to us, but all of it. He allowed the Romans to arrest Him, spit, slap and beat Him. He opened Himself up to be scourged out of love for us, as His flesh was torn from His body and blood spilled out. They roughly submerged a crown of thorns on His head, which penetrated into His skull. Then he lovingly picked up His cross and carried it to Calvary. Along the way He thought of you and I, because we were why He chose to suffer. But He never regretted a moment of His bitter and sacred passion, He only kept loving us. When He arrived at Calvary, the soldiers violently stripped Him of His garments to the point of tearing His flesh. As they pounded nails into His scared Hands and Feet, He thought of you and I, and He kept giving until He expired His last.

So despite how the world disappoints us, the people who lie to us and let us down we must keep fighting with love in our heart. We must keep striving to open our hearts to vulnerability without the fear of being hurt. And if our heart should get hurt, we must make the choice to see beauty in the opportunity to mirror Christ’s love: to give without asking anything in return.

When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women.  – Archbishop Fulton Sheen

P.S. You are enough

I choose to wait.

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By Erin McNew | Guest Blogger

When I was thirteen, I decided to be chaste. But it never stopped there. Because it begins again every day. I wake up and make that decision anew every day. Because every day it means something different to me. Every day it gets harder. Every day that decision expands as I add an increasing amount of knowledge concerning life, love, human sexuality, redemption, desire, faith, etc. into the mix.

When I was thirteen, chastity was like living a fairy tale. But it isn’t anymore. It’s living a life with someone who has yet to enter my life constantly on my mind. And I’ve never for a moment regretted it. It isn’t my identity, it’s the way through which I express my love and appreciation and respect for someone who I am yet to know. It doesn’t mean that I am in any way superior to someone who isn’t chaste. It just means that I made a choice and have chosen to stand by it as I go through life.

When I was thirteen, I chose to be chaste least of all for myself. And now, as I’m twenty, I continue to make that choice least of all for myself. I make it for God that I might become the person He’s calling me to be. And I make it for my husband that I might preserve the best of my existence to be bound to him in spirit and in body.

When I was thirteen, I didn’t consider the awkwardness of my wedding night. And I still don’t. Because the goal of chastity is not to ensure good sex. It’s to ensure a pure heart.

When I was thirteen, I didn’t know the man I was going to marry. But now, after writing nearly eighty letters to him over the period of two and a half years, I do in some ways. He doesn’t yet have a face. And he doesn’t yet have a name. But he does have a heart. And it’s a heart whose place is now reserved in my own. It’s that heart that swells inside of me in the face of temptation. It’s that heart that whispers to me in the aftermath of rejection. It’s that heart that keeps me laughing in times of awkwardness. And it’s that heart that helps foster forgiveness in the presence of my own mistakes or the face of other’s.

When I was thirteen, I dreamt of marrying a chaste man. But now I dream of marrying a man whose qualities are not necessarily limited to and do not necessarily include that particular feature. Because I learned the concept of a dynamic and forgiving love. A love with imperfections. And a love that may not have known what it would one day grow to encompass. I know that a person’s past does not always define their future much less their ability to love another. I know that all people deserve the best of my love. And that one day I’ll be deserving of the best of another’s love.

When I was thirteen, I was provided Biblical evidence to prove the validity of chaste living. But I’ve come to believe that the Bible isn’t always enough to keep me going in the right direction, nor is church. Because God’s story is still being written. His miracles are still abound. His Son’s sacrifice still stands. And His church isn’t limited to a building. Sermons are present in our everyday lives. They may not always be spoken by a priest. They may not be spoken at all. But God is spreading lessons of love throughout our existence.

“She holds onto hope for he is forever faithful.”  – 1 Corinthians 1:9

P.S. You are enough.

The Day a Scale Gave Me More than a Number

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By Erin McNew | Guest Blogger

Photo credit: Donna Irene Photography

Today, I ran across a scale that I found to be pretty incredible. Underneath the top where it would read your weight, it said the words “you are beautiful” in purple script.

Okay, so I’m a total sap. I accept that. But it turns out that I’m the kind of sap that just about sheds a few tears in HEB (store in Texas). Because, honestly, this really stuck me. I think that as women we really need things like this in our lives. Because, if you’re anything like me, you probably forget.

I forget that weight is just a number.

I forget that it’s a number only I can see.

I forget that the pound or two fluctuation that I see in my weight isn’t evident to the human eye.

I forget not to let petty things like a number weigh in on my heart.

And I forget that beauty is not measured or dictated by external factors.

As women, I think we do forget. I think that we forget that God doesn’t necessarily make girls like the ones we see on magazine covers. That the girl that we spend countless hours working out to look like doesn’t even look like that. That she’s been slimmed and toned to the specifications and ideals of an individual whose face remains hidden behind the screen of a computer. That she was created by the world.

As women, I think that we forget that our image of beauty is inherently flawed. We forget as we poke and paint and cover and tone that our image of beauty had been largely dictated by the world.

As women, I think that we’ve failed to realize the validity in the words of our earthly fathers. We no longer see the validity in him having told us that we would always be beautiful.

And, as women, I think we’ve lost sight of our heavenly Father. I think that in the process of growing up we managed to convince ourselves that believing in natural, God-given beauty is like believing in fairy tales. That it’s naïve or childish or just false. And we cover some of God’s greatest works of art with a product created with the intention of altering His creation. We’ve taken to fueling an industry that thrives off telling women that they’re not good enough. That if they use this mascara or this eye shadow they will in some way be better, maybe more desirable or attractive. We’ve lost sight of our Father’s creation. And not only have we lost sight of it- we’ve hidden it. We’ve hidden it from the eyes of the people we love thinking that it will please the world.

I’m just as guilty as anyone else. I’m just as guilty or thinking that that little number on a scale somehow directly correlates to people’s perception of my attractiveness. I’m just as guilty of relying on make up to make me beautiful. And I’m just as guilty of taking into account my beauty according to the world ahead of the beauty seen in me and given to me by Christ. I’m just as guilty of being blind to a reality that isn’t dictated by miniscule elements.

But we’re wrong. We’re all wrong. We’re wrong in our reliance on earthly things to make unnecessary “improvements” on what was already deemed lovable in the heart of Christ.

Because you are beautiful. Not because of a product or a number or an article of clothing. You’re just beautiful. You. Right now. As you are. Make up or no makeup. You’re perfect. And you’re perfect because you’re you. Because you were conceived in the mind of the Lord. And you were accepted into His heart as an individual with value and worth. You are always beautiful.

“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’” – 1 Samuel 16:7

P.S. You are enough.

Get up, get pretty, and get over it

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By Erin McNew | Guest Blogger

Photo credit: Donna Irene Photography

Take a look inside, girl. Take a minute to reacquaint yourself with your soul and the Person who created it. Now try telling me that you aren’t worthy of love. Try telling me that when a man comes along with the most beautiful heart you’ve ever met you’ll still be thinking about the boy who hurt you. He’s just another stepping stone in the path to a romance created by the King.

No matter how bad it hurts, you have to pick your head up. Because you’ll never be able to see all the blessings God is bringing your way when you’re hanging your head in shame, regret or looking back at the man who couldn’t see how deserving you are of proper love and affection and wishing he would head back your way one day. Leave him in the past. That’s where his home in your life is now. Wipe those tears away. He’s not worth it.

You’re worth it. You’re worth someone’s time and attention. Someone in this world is waiting, even praying to find someone exactly like you. In fact, you are the woman of some man’s dreams. You may not see it now and it may be difficult to keep in perspective, but that man happens to think you’re one of the most beautiful women in the world. He’d do anything to have you by his side.

He makes fairy tales sound like jokes in comparison to the love story he’s going to write with you. He’d rather die than leave you. There is a man in this world with your soul written on his heart. And you’ll never be able to give those words meaning to him if you’re still caught up on the boy who could have been or should have done better or never really was.

Your past is the fairy tale. Your future is the life you could hardly even imagine. It’s better than you ever dreamed. It puts Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White’s Prince Charming to shame. Because your prince is real. He’s probably not going to show up on a horse. But he’s going to show up. And he’s going to make you wonder why you ever spent so much time fretting to God when His perfect plan could have been trusted from the very beginning. Hang in there, hun, it’s coming your way. And it’s a life more incredible than a story book could ever have imagined. Designed by the Creator of your heart and tailored to your soul, it will sweep you off your feet and leave you in awe the moment you lift your head to face it.

“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious…” – 1 Peter 2:4

P.S. You are enough.

Your first love

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By Bobby Blood | Guest Blogger

Photo credit: Jenny Haas Photography

You are My lily among the thorns. I created you. I, love itself, created you. My dear daughter I want you to know how much I love you. This love I speak of does not fade, and at every moment you can count on the fact that I’m thinking of you. Why? You make me happy. I know you make mistakes but I’ve seen you pull yourself back up to see me time and time again. Don’t be afraid to grab on to me when you are falling. I’ll hold on tight and keep you safe. You are strong. You are beautiful. You are mine.

I have perfect plans for you.

Amidst the difficulties of life I have a mission for you. This mission I trust with you alone. I have written it in the desires of your heart. When it is time your heart will be set aflame in a special way and you will carry much responsibility. I see the great weights that you are bearing for the sake of My kingdom, but they will become heavier, so will my love.

You are going to bring many to Me. When you smile, I smile. Your joy radiates My own joy and My dear daughter that will cause many to search for Me in you. Daily you remind Me why I carried that cross. I want to see you in heaven forever. I want to love you in ways that you can not yet imagine. I want you to bring many souls with you. You have already grown My Church by your life.

I will share your heart with another.

I love you and you are mine. However, I have made your brothers strong. I ask them daily to give their hearts to me to be purified so that they are more worthy to be shared with you. They will make mistakes; they will love little, but they are trying to show love to My highest creation, you. Don’t lose faith in them for I am working day and night to make the man in whom you will share your life with holy and full of virtue. Don’t lose hope.

Since the beginning of time I have loved you. This love will never cease.

- God, your Father.

P.S. You are enough.