The Ball and the Cross

”The Church is not a thing like the Athenaeum Club,’ he cried.’ If the Athenaeum Club lost all its members, the Athenaeum Club would dissolve and cease to exist. But when we belong to the Church we belong to something which is outside all of us which is outside everything you talk about, outside the Cardinals and the Pope. They belong to it, but it does not belong to them. If we all fell dead suddenly, the Church would still somehow exist in God.” – G.K. Chesterton

Doubt.

“St. Thomas asks for the very thing the other disciples received [...] he wants to see the risen Christ for himself. St. Thomas shows us that doubt, even deep doubt, is not the opposite of faith. Doubt need not be a sign that faith is weak and dying. Doubt can be a sign that faith is alive, longing for the risen Lord to renew our life. Perhaps precisely on account of his doubt, Thomas is able to make the strongest confession of faith of any of the disciples in the gospels: ‘My Lord and my God.’”
- Fr. Kevin McGrath, O.S.B

Here I am, Lord

This weekend at the Steubenville Conference in Atlanta was absolutely amazing. I’m still processing everything that I encountered last weekend. Throughout the duration of the event, we were surrounded by about 1,300 people in the Gwinette Center. It was a bit crazy at times, but it was inspiring to see so many teenagers come from all over the United States and outside the country to grow in their faith. I was ridiculously excited when I found out Mark Hart was one of the speakers! He’s one of my LifeTeen role models (besides Jackie Francois)! Any who, it was a wonderful weekend full of prayer, work shops, and Eucharistic adoration.

I had a few highs and lows during the weekend:

1) No one, for the love of all things beautiful, believed that I was an adult. Seriously, I’m twenty-three, I have a stable job, and I’m married. It was incredibly annoying at times, but even through much of my frustration, I had a super awesome experience during my personal adoration time.

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 (So, I love this picture because at one point I was standing between Cal, Pat, and Fr. Kevin. I’m just ridiculously short compared to all of them!)

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(Heather joined me in my suffering. Hardly anyone believed that we are adults. We were interceded by our youth minister many a time.)

2) The president of LifeTeen sat next to me during mass! Oh, and here’s the kicker, I had no idea until our youth minister told me later that day. I just thought he was a friendly stranger just grabbing a seat. It was funny, I was told that the seats infront of me and the two beside me were reserved and I let him sit next to me anyway…I wasn’t going to say no, it was for mass. After he and his son sat down I turned to Heather and said, “Whelp, those seats are gone.” I’m so happy he didn’t hear that, lol.

3) Adoration was absolutely amazing. I honestly wish I could think of better words to describe it. I remembered at the Savannah Diocesan Youth Conference, Fr. Ortega said,”this is the moment when Heaven kisses Earth” and it has been impossible for me to see mass or adoration the same way ever since. I’ve been debating on and off whether or not I would share my writing from holy hour. I had to stop writing during adoration because I just kept being called to kneel and pray:

“Oh beauty divine and ever ancient, here I am. Just me. I’m weak, broken, tired, and torn. Please hear the longing of my soul. My heart cries to you. Why have I been so afraid to fall on you? Forgive me for my weakness and doubt. Heal me, please. I long for you.”

Saint Faustina once said, “He who knows how to forgive prepares for himself many graces from God. As often as I look upon the cross, so often will I forgive with all my heart.” For me, just letting go is something I have always struggled with, but this time, it felt like I was finally able to do it.  Seriously, I started crying before they put Jesus in the monstrance.  I just knew that adoration was going to be beautiful.  I always get teary eyed when I see so many youth praying and worshiping God-seeing the beauty of the Church grabs my heart every time.

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4) I met the nicest nun! She is one of the Missionaries of Charity. It took me the entire weekend to sum up enough courage to talk to her. You know, introvert problems. She gave me a Mother Teresa Medal and a prayer card. Seriously, if I had never married I probably would have joined the Missionaries of Charity or the Benedictine Sisters. Nuns are just awesome.

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I wish I could write more about this weekend, but I’m still processing a few things.

Not all those who wander are lost.

The title of this entry is a quote by Tolkien and it happens to be one of my old favorites. Today’s scripture reading, Matthew 8:28-34, is also one of my old favorites. There is so much that can be taken out of this passage! It says:

28 When He came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs. They were so extremely violent that no one could pass by that way. 29 And they cried out, saying, “What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” 30 Now there was a herd of many swine feeding at a distance from them. 31 The demons began to entreat Him, saying, “If You are going to cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.” 32 And He said to them, “Go!” And they came out and went into the swine, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the waters. 33 The herdsmen ran away, and went to the city and reported everything, including what had happened to the demoniacs. 34 And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they implored Him to leave their region.

This is such a beautiful story. It reminds me of the strong love and abundance of grace Jesus has for His children. It reveals His nature to us.   This reading always makes me wonder how long those men were in that condition. It’s so terribly sad. The men in the story, their souls, were tormented day and night until the very moment Jesus set foot before them and cast the demons out.  In the Gospel according to Mark (Mark 5:1-20 and also Luke 8:26-39) the demoniacs would “scream among the tombs and gash themselves with stones.” The men had broken chains around their bodies and their clothes were torn, and on top of that, they lived among the dead. That’s a terrifying picture to imagine. It’s not surprising that the villagers were afraid to go near them. Personally, I would be terrified, but that’s my own weakness showing.

It is so amazing that even in that state, when no person in their right mind would go around them, Jesus was not afraid to go to them. Why would the Man who calmed the stormy sea not calm the suffering souls of the men? Jesus is never afraid to reach out to us no matter what state of sin we are in. It is his nature to love. There is never a “too far away” from God.  Those men, in my opinion, were pretty much as far away from God as a person can get, but even in that state, the grace of God was still abundant. It reminds us that we just need to open our hearts to him. How could a Father not help his child suffering in the most unimaginable way? The demons feared him. Jesus’ presence, his name even, repealed them. The devils hold on our soul, but our sin, is never too great for God to cleanse.

Along with the beautiful message of hope this story ends in a sad way. After Jesus had performed this great miracle, He was asked to leave. It’s amazing how even in the moments in life where the presence of God is so relevant in our lives we still turn away. We see love incarnate and we reject it.  Saint Augustine of Hippo once wrote, “What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.”  We search and long for love and we don’t know what to do with it when we find it. That is the human condition.

Our Wedding Reception

Introducing Mr. and Mrs. Anderson: Our Wedding Reception

The wedding reception was beautiful! Aunt Barb and MaconNite Life (Brandon and Lindsay) did a fantastic job putting everything together. Didn’t I mention before that I really love Christmas tree lights, lol? I really do enjoy the warm ambiance they create. I think the theme of our wedding could best be described as Shabby Chique meets English Tea Party.

After the wedding party entered, Kurtis and I had our first (and very awkward) dance as husband and wife. The song I chose was Love is not a Fight (acoustic) by Warren Barfield. It suited us perfectly.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzWCoIDOr6g

After our first dance and Kurtis’ dance with his mom, Father Kevin blessed the food and it was finally time to eat! I was so hungry! I was too nervous to really eat anything before the wedding so I just went without.

During dinner Kurtis’ Best Man and my Maid of Honor did a toast. Both speeches were really sweet and reflective of our relationship with them.

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After that it was time to cut the cake! The cake turned out better than what I had expected. We chose a three tiered marble wedding cake with butter cream icing. Our wedding cake topper was actually set to the side, but it was called “Promise” by Willow Tree. I’ve always have been a big fan of Willow Tree, their products always show so much emotion in such a simple way.

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After the cutting of the cake we had the money dance with the bride and groom. Yay, more awkward Leila dancing! I had a wonderful time, but I was just really afraid of stepping on people’s feet.

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Following that it was finally time for me to toss my bouquet (One Way or Another by Blondie) and for my husband to throw the garter (I’ve Gotta Feeling by Black Eyed Peas). This was hilarious because to everyone’s surprise, including her own, my Maid of honor caught the bouquet (her face was priceless btw) and Robert caught the garter.

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We had a marriage appreciation dance where all of the married couples came out on the floor to dance and who ever had been married the longest gave my husband and I marriage advice.

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Following that it was time to open up the dance floor to everyone! I don’t think I’ve ever seen Kurtis or any of his groomsmen dance that much but it was a wonderful thing to see. I’m really glad that everyone seemed to have a really good time.

Our Special Day :)

It’s funny how in that one moment when we step back and ask ourselves “what can I do to help others see Christ” everything changes. Well, that’s if you truly ask yourself that question and open your heart to God nothing will ever be the same again. For Kurtis and I, we decided that our union in marriage is how we will help others see Christ (well, to the best of our ability).

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As I’m lying here on the couch with my very new husband I can’t help but to smile whenever I think about our wedding day. I still think it’s unbelievably awesome how our wedding date not only fell on the feast day of Aloysius Gonzaga, but also due to the time of the wedding the feast of Corpus Christi. Any who, I’m so very thankful for all of the wonderful friends and family that came and celebrated our marriage sacrament with us. Looking back, Saturday just flew by.

On Saturday morning, Annie and I woke up fairly early-ish. The morning was filled with a strange mixture of excitement, nervousness, and joy. It felt like everything was finally clicking into place. We started getting ready around 1:00 and we arrived at the Church at 5:00 (we wanted to get there in time to do pictures). It was funny. It almost felt like we were playing tag with the groomsmen. Kurtis was never in the right place at the right time and we kept almost running into each other. Haha!

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The ceremony began at 7:00 and I didn’t officially begin to feel nervous until Fr. Kevin popped in to check on me. Right after he left that’s when I could feel all of the butterflies in my stomach. Before I knew it, Te Deum (by Charpentier) began to play and it was time for my bridesmaids to enter the sanctuary one by one. After the song had ended it was my turn, my heart was pounding as Cannon in D (by Pachelbel) started to play. I always feel really awkward when I know people are looking at me. When it was time for me and Mr. Boswell to began walking down the aisle he had to tell me to slow down. I was just worried about tripping over my dress in front of everyone- you know, Leila problems.

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Words cannot express how ecstatic I am that everything went smoothly overall for the wedding mass. Everything in the ceremony intertwined beautifully. The readings we chose and the homily paired together wonderfully. It felt like everything we had learned finally hit home- all of the marriage preparation classes and overall conversations about marriage we’ve had this past year.

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When it came time for us to say our vows I’m still surprised that I started to cry (happy tears of course). We had been waiting for that moment for such a long time and it was finally happening, it was just overwhelming. Looking back, I can’t help but to remember a conversation Kurtis and I had back when we were seventeen. We were sitting in Mrs. Owen’s Sociology class and Greg asked Kurtis what his ideal type of woman he had in mind for his future bride. It was the exact opposite of me, and I remember thinking in return “man, she has to be out of her mind to marry that guy.” Fast forward to both of us standing on the alter exchanging our wedding vows to one another six years later. Who knew those awkward teenagers had stumbled upon something so special.

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After Communion we chose to partake in the Catholic tradition of giving a rose to the Blessed Mother. It really meant a lot to us to be able to ask for her intersession and blessing for our marriage and future children. For me, I prayed the Memorare and I think Kurtis prayed a few Hail Mary’s while the Ave Maria was being sung.

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Before we knew it, O God Beyond All Praising began to play and the mass was over! It was time for the wedding reception to begin.

Beautifully Reckless

I still can’t believe that I had decided to volunteer at Sacred Heart VBS just two weeks before the wedding. The children I helped with were mainly in kindergarten, but I was also the person in charge of directing the middle schoolers and older teens. It was wonderful getting to see God through the eyes of a child. The kids questions ranged everywhere from “Why can’t we see God?” to “Can I talk to my guardian angel?” I have to admit that a few memorable moments of mine would have to be seeing our seminarian teach the kids. I just really enjoyed hearing the children’s answers. Overall it was exhausting, but lot of fun! And yes, I still keep getting VBS song flashbacks.

Wedding Week

To be completely honest, I really hated planning our wedding. I just wanted to make sure the wedding ceremony went smoothly and was willing to accept whatever would happen during the reception. The week leading up to the wedding was exhausting and chaotic- well, it was controlled chaos. It felt like my mind was just everywhere!

I had four major highlights last week:

1) I loved going to adoration with Annie and my fiancé. Words cannot describe how much I absolutely needed to do that. It gave me the peace I needed to get through the wedding rehearsal and the big day.

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2) Staying with Annie leading up to the wedding was so much fun! I don’t think I would have been able to keep myself together if it weren’t for her! She helped so much with everything! Seriously, she helped us iron table cloths and helped me destress mainly by catching fireflies (Hussiane and the Bolts).

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3) This is random, but I really enjoyed having lunch at Zaxbys with Annie, Andy, and Kurtis. Kurtis and I gave Andy his gift which happened to be a box of 120 packets of Zaxbys Sauce to tie him over while he finishes his Ph. D in Chicago. His face was just precious.

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4) Friday was super busy. The groomsmen, well two of them, came by to help finish making the wedding trinkets (stringing those button cookies took forever). I’m very thankful that my mother-in-law baked them for us ahead of time- she cranked those cookies out like a total boss! It was just a lot of fun chatting and messing around with each other. After lunch, Annie and I left to go get our nails done and before we knew it it was time to head over to our cocktail party Aunt Bonnie had prepared for us! The wedding party left around 5:00 to head over to the Church for the wedding rehearsal. The rehearsal itself was, well, interesting.

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Stay tuned for my next three blogs on the wedding, the reception, and our honeymoon :)