The Father can flood even the darkest, most hidden corners of the human heart with light.
Ana and Sam met at the University of Wisconsin in Madison; he was the new intern at the Newman Center on campus, and she was the student joining his retreat-planning team. The desire they both felt to serve the Church led them to one another.
After a few months of emails, Sam asked Ana out. Their first date was to a botanical garden on Easter Sunday. Many dates followed over the next few weeks as the clock ticked down: Sam’s internship would be over in a month, and he was preparing to move back home.
In Ana’s words: We talked about deciding at the end of those weeks if we could do a long-distance relationship, but it quickly became a no-brainer. We dated from a distance for six months, where we both used the time apart to seriously discern our relationship. I was incredibly happy—the summer was full of adventure and young love, though also shadowed by a period of extreme darkness in my own spiritual life.
We both realized around three months of dating that the other was, hopefully, the person God had planned for us. I knew in my heart and gut that if given the opportunity, I would marry Sam. Sam was a gift from God I truly could not believe I had received.
Strangely enough, this realization threw me into a torrent of worry and anxiety for months, as I began believing this gift was too good to be true. Even more devastating, I started doubting that God loves to bless us with beautiful things.
Hear me out. There was nothing wrong with our relationship. It was pure, good, and holy; at least, we were striving for that. The devil had taken control of my head and heart, trying to convince me I didn’t deserve the Lord’s goodness; that God was somehow tricking me, and his will was impossible to figure out, let alone follow.
During this time, Sam and I did a nine-day novena to St. Joseph for our relationship and for my anxiety, where we agreed to no contact at all. It was one of the hardest things we’ve ever done.
It was during this time that I realized just how much love I had accumulated in my little, broken heart for this incredible man. I told God that if he blessed me with the opportunity to marry Sam, I would.
I prayed that God would be pleased with that decision. Looking back, I now realize that God wants to hear our raw, broken prayers. Believing a situation is “too good to be true” is like believing God is too good to be true. And that, I now know, is a lie.
Sam, being the sure and steady man he is, kept me focused on trusting Christ and myself during my period of darkness. In my desolation, I experienced the kind of man that Sam is. I am most grateful for his steadiness and faith. We were fortunate that Sam landed a job that brought him back to Madison, where he has been ever since. This allowed us to grow much closer than we otherwise could have apart.
Nine months after our first date, Sam proposed in the campus chapel, St. Paul’s, on New Years Eve, the Feast of the Holy Family! St. Paul’s is the community that had brought us together, and it is where we will be married next July. God is so good, and he loves to give us good things! Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Trusting in him doesn’t mean putting a blindfold on while turning the boat in the opposite direction—it means staying the course of truth, eyes wide open, enjoying the views, all the while knowing and trusting that Christ is steering the boat. He leads us beside still waters, and he blesses us abundantly there. Let him.
In Sam’s words: I am not exaggerating when I say Ana was everything I was looking for in a girl: Catholic, faithful, pretty, funny, and more. I finally got the nerve to ask her out after almost four months. Although I still didn't know her well--our interactions had been pretty limited--I was incredibly excited to become friends. And we did become friends, fast.
After the whirlwind four weeks leading to the end of my temporary job, the decision to make a long-distance relationship work was the easiest decision. We were four hours away, so we were only able to see each other every so often. Despite our distance, we grew very close that summer. The time we spent together was obviously precious to each of us. By the end of that summer I knew I could--and wanted to--marry this girl, if that's what God wanted of me.
I was fortunate to land a job in the fall that brought me right back to Ana. I knew it was only a matter of time before we got engaged at this point. We were beginning to rely on each other and care for each other in ways that really only made sense within an engaged relationship. I got a ring in late November. Both of us had a strong connection to this chapel where I asked her, and I felt there was no better place. Ana has continued to be the greatest joy in my life, and I thank God every day she said yes!
Photography: Pete Creamer (family)