My cousin recently disclosed to me his longtime crush on Edie, a sweet little girl from his 2nd-grade class. Ironic, as I pen this blog post for the feast day of St. Edith Stein (Teresa Benedicta of the Cross). This writer, teacher, convert who offered one of the most beautiful martyrdoms in Auschwitz is very close to my heart. With her own words and aid, I’m going to share my story:
“The destiny of every woman is to be a bride and mother.”
From her Jewish roots, Edith had quite a journey to the convent at Carmel. Yet she worked tirelessly and waited patiently to become a Bride of Christ and give her very life to His mission for her.
I too know the long-suffering of waiting to make my vows. After an impossibly long-distance courtship and lovely proposal, our joyful Easter wedding was pushed back by the coronavirus. A major disappointment to overcome for this type-A planner. Endless people to contact, vendors to coordinate, hoops to jump through. But hope prevailed and we continued along the path set before us.
A month before our second wedding date, we realized large group gatherings were not making the fastest of comebacks. However, more important troubles were bubbling under the surface. Problems that had shadowed us throughout our courtship began to overwhelm. What I used to dismiss as thoughts of unnecessary worry became urgent: “What if it’s always like this? When did I stop asking for and receiving what I need? Marriage isn’t easy, but is it really supposed to be this hard before we even walk down the aisle?” I wondered.
“Women comprehend not merely with the intellect but also with the heart.”
It seemed prudent to seek outside help. Our priest referred us to a wonderful counselor, but the same vicious cycle was wearing thin what was left of us: The everyday crosses left one falling apart and the other scrambling to pick up the pieces and trying to fix every little thing. Not sustainable. Not healthy. Not good.
We continued praying and felt a bit more time before marriage would help. Inspired by a beautiful friend who has taught me boldness in prayer, we asked the Lord for roses (St. Thérèse of Lisieux) if autumn should be our time or lilies (St. Joseph) if we could look toward summer’s end. After a neighborhood Rosary walk with my mama, it was revealed to me that the plant I had just received for my birthday was a Canna lily: How fitting since Jesus performed his first miracle at the wedding feast in Cana!
I continued seeing lilies everywhere from sidewalks to song titles. What a merciful surprise when I realized that Jesus’ miracle in my life would look so different than the one I was praying for.
“Henceforth, my only vocation is to love.”
My wise and beautiful sister spoke a prophetic word to me amid all our discernment. Caught up in a silly wedding fret, she gently reminded me, “Don’t forget what the end goal is.” Laughing at myself, I replied “You’re so right! Our marriage is way more important.” She smiled and softly corrected me, “Not as important as heaven.”
How quick am I to forget where I am headed. As vital and life-giving as our vocations can be, we were not made for this world but the next one.
Eternity does have a way of putting today in perspective. Good thing, because I was only beginning to surrender my dreams and cling to the cross as Edith had done.
“Let go of your plans.”
Every plan for our third wedding date was nearly in place when the cancellation of a long-awaited reunion brought about one of our worst fallouts yet. Exhausted by the work of trying to make it all better yet again, I begged the Lord to shed His light on my path. “Dear Jesus, I can’t tell if these obstacles are for my perseverance or from your protecting hand. If this vocation to marriage together is not Your will for us right now or ever, please undo every knot and let this all unravel.”
And within two days, it was finished.
In the span of three weeks, I lost my dear grandpa to cancer and a dear fiancé and friend to the weight of deep wounds and unspeakable challenges. One loss came unbidden. The other was a parting, I chose, out of the greatest love and respect since nobody should ever settle for a mediocre, half-hearted life.
After all, hasn’t every martyr died to echo God’s own sacrifice for our freedom? Captivity is not our inheritance when the King gives abundant life to His precious daughters and sons.
We must be brave enough to claim and receive the gift of this one, wonderful life. Unless we receive the inimitable treasure that is our own life—breathed forth and dreamed of for all ages by the Creator—we will never truly live.
God’s beauty, goodness, and truth are limitless. And so are the ways we reveal Him to the world by simply living in the freedom of His love.
“If anyone comes to me, I want to lead them to Him.”
What comes next for me has not been revealed, but I know God’s faithfulness has not failed me yet. The healing begins here. And His goodness ceases never.
That’s where I’m resting my heart these days. Feel welcome to join me.
In every cross, disappointment, heartbreak, and suffering may the martyrdom of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross remind us what matters most. May you too find much to love in “Edie” as both my cousin and I have. May her wisdom and hope bless you this day.
“And when night comes, and you look back over the day and see how fragmentary everything has been, and how much you planned that has gone undone, and all the reasons you have to be embarrassed and ashamed: just take everything exactly as it is, put it in God’s hands, and leave it with Him.”