A little over a year ago, I created this blog to be a place where we could celebrate the little things in this life that bring us joy- the little glimpses of heaven that reveal God’s beauty and love in our daily lives. These little signs can be anything- a gentle breeze on a warm day, a rainbow after a storm, or a flower in your favorite color, but they are all meant to serve as reminders of God’s love for us. Many of my posts over the year have centered of my experiences as a DRE, where I have had the chance to witness God’s love in the lives of my students, catechists, and coworkers. As I begin this next stage in my life’s journey here in DC, I am confident that I will continue to find this same love reflected in the lives of the people of St. Ignatius, the parish that I will serve throughout this year. Though I am very grateful for the lessons that I learned at Mt. Carmel, I am excited to take this next step. My new job is just one sign of my changing life, and at this very moment, the Lord is finishing one chapter of my life and beginning the next. If you are a regular follower of my blog, you have accompanied me on this journey and have read my life’s story up until this moment, and now I invite you to take this next step with me as I begin this new chapter in my life.
This past week has been an absolute whirlwind, and it seems as though I haven’t been able to catch my breath since last Saturday when I moved down here. I have spent these last few days settling into a new place, becoming accustomed to living with a new family, and learning to navigate a new city. I have relocated to College Park, MD, a college town about half an hour away from my graduate program and about an hour away from my job. As you can imagine, my commute can be grueling, and the Metro is not in the most convenient of places. While it isn’t exactly easy for me to get from place to place, I have never been one to turn down an invitation and an opportunity to see people, and so over the past week, I have been able to reconnect with old friends, make a few new ones, and spend time with some of the people who I love the most. As I’ve written in another post, my friends have been vital in my life, particularly throughout this past year of transitions, and I know that I will need my friends through this next transition in my life.
As you can imagine, there were many reasons why I chose to move down to DC. I decided to go back to school. I wanted the strong Catholic community that I had the first time that I lived here in the Capitol, many of whom are still here. And I wanted to be closer to my boyfriend.
I had assumed that many people would berate me for my decision, but I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of support that I was shown. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but I know that it was the right one. Yes, as I’ve been telling everyone who asks, I moved to DC to finish my degree. It was the financially responsible decision, since I already did one year of coursework at the John Paul II Institute and most of my credits would not have transferred. Had I enrolled in another program, I would have had to start over. Yes, I missed my DC community, where worship events were frequent and attending daily Mass together was encouraged. I had friends in New Jersey, but I did not have the strong faith community that I had come to cherish during my time in DC. But no, those were not my only reasons to move.
I also moved to be closer to my boyfriend. Andrew and I have been dating for nearly a year now, and while the year has been beautiful in so many ways, it was also difficult. We were constantly taking public transportation and driving to see each other, and after a few glorious days together, we’d have to go our separate ways until we were brought together again. Those weekends together were like dreams, and Monday/Tuesday morning always fell like waking up to reality. In other ways, it felt like those trips were more real than the weeks that passed between them. Andrew was simultaneously the man I had always dreamed about and one of the most real things in my life. Not to sound too cliché (which is exactly what I’m about to do), but he really was like a dream come true.
Every trip was heavenly, but the goodbyes got more painful with every month that passed. Over the course of just a few months, we had fallen deeply in love, and as time moved forward, it became harder and harder to imagine a life without him. We began to talk about our future together, and it was not long before we were talking about marriage.
Just for a bit of back story, Andrew and I met three years ago. I had just moved down to DC for the first time, and I was beginning a new job at the National Shrine’s Book Store. I was trained by a kind young man named Andrew, whom some people called Drew, and over the course of the year that I spent in DC, we ran into each other a handful of times. We weren’t exactly friends, more like acquaintances, and when I left to enter the convent, we both assumed that we would never see each other again. And we were fine with that, if we thought about it at all.
Little did we know, God had other things in mind. A year later, we were brought back together at a baseball game. I was fresh out of the convent, trying to get my life back in order, and he was starting the Ph.D. program at Catholic University in Moral Theology. A month later, he asked me out on a date. A month after that, he asked me to be his girlfriend. Needless to say, I said ‘yes’ to both.
This past weekend, I said ‘yes’ again, and now I am preparing to say ‘I do.’ As I said before, I moved down to DC last weekend, and I knew that this move was the last step before the possibility of engagement became real. I knew that Andrew wanted to wait to propose until I had become a permanent fixture down here. He had repeatedly reminded me that it would be difficult to surprise me when our times together were so rare and intense. If he had proposed while I was still living in New Jersey, the moment would have been overshadowed by the fact that we would have to go our separate ways again soon. And so we decided to wait.
Once I had moved down to DC, it wasn’t long before the moment I had been waiting for arrived. In the weeks just prior to the move, Andrew asked if he could take me out to celebrate this new stage in my life. Once I moved down, he let me pick where we’d spend the day (we went to the Spy Museum), and he patiently waited for the right moment.
After touring the Spy Museum, Andrew suggested that we walk over to the World War II Memorial before dinner. It’s always been my favorite memorial because you can always find the wonderful sounds of children laughing and water gushing out of the fountains in the center of the pool. While wading in the water is forbidden, sitting at the edge and putting your feet in the pool is perfectly acceptable, and even encouraged. I’ve spent many warm summer afternoons reading Hans Urs von Balthasar or Joseph Ratzinger with my feet dangling in that water.
We walked past the memorial, and towards the little sitting area where ten months before he had asked me to be his girlfriend. It’s always been a very quiet place to talk, and I had never seen anyone sitting on the benches. Until this past Saturday. It was obvious that we were both disappointed by the two college girls who had chosen “our spot” for their study place. Instead of sitting there as planned, we went for a walk, and then for an early dinner, both of us hoping that by the time we returned to the area, the girls would have left. There’s no way those girls would still be there, we both assumed.
Wrong. Three hours later, we returned to the benches to find the same girls in the same spots. They had stopped reading, and were simply chatting with one another. At this point, I noticed a few details that I hadn’t taken into consideration earlier: their large bags, their packed dinners, and their stacks of books. When we had arrived at our spot earlier that afternoon, neither of us had realized that the girls intended to camp out for the entire afternoon and evening.
Since the girls were just talking, we didn’t think it would be rude to sit down as well. We chatted for a little while, and as the minutes passed and the sun sunk deeper in the sky, it became clear that the girls weren’t leaving. Even the dark hadn’t chased them away; they had simply abandoned their books altogether. There was no pretense of reading anymore; there was also no pretense that we would ever have the place to ourselves that night. Gradually, Andrew and I both came to accept the reality that they might not leave.
At this point, it was already late, and we both knew that we needed to leave soon. I had a curfew, and we were getting dangerously close to missing it. Finally, Andrew leaned over and asked if he could give me something. He led me away from the girls, to the farthest point in the circle of benches, and then the world seemed to stop. I knew what was coming, and it seemed like in that moment, time stood still.
It was everything that I had ever dreamed, and so much more. It felt as though the world held her breath while creation anxiously waited for my response, for my “yes.” And God was smiling for His children, who had fallen in love beneath His loving gaze. He was writing a love story, and He had patiently waited to begin this new chapter. This was a story of love, of healing, of surrender. It was a story of a girl’s ‘yes’ to a boy. And it will be the story of a woman’s ‘I do” to a man.
I always knew that my story would lead to an altar. For my entire childhood and adolescence, I had assumed it would be in marriage, where I would give myself to a man before both God and His people. For a year, I thought that it would be in the religious life, where I would give myself to Christ as His Bride. But now, I know the truth. I have given myself to Christ, and now He is preparing me to give myself to the love of my life, my future husband, Andrew Whitmore. My story will lead to an altar, just as I always assumed. And at that altar, I will meet Christ, and He will unite us. Andrew and I will become man and wife. We will begin our life together. Three times, I have said ‘yes.’ I said ‘yes’ to a date, I said ‘yes’ to a relationship, and now I have said ‘yes’ to a marriage proposal. And soon I will say ‘I do,’ the culmination of every ‘yes’ I have ever offered. Yes, I will marry you. Yes, I will give myself to you. Yes, I will love you for the rest of my life, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, for rich or for poor, until death do us part. Yes.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!