Katie Hartfiel is a 29 year-old wife and mother of two. She and her husband Mark live in Houston where they are both active in ministry. The story of how they met and fell in love is chronicled in Katie’s new book, Woman In Love.
In the book, Katie writes about the inner struggles brought on by her parents’ difficult divorce. At age 17, God gave her a vision to pray for her own future spouse. She began writing love letters to her unknown husband-to-be (HTB), pouring out her heart to him and covering him with prayer. The book reveals the dual love story that unfolds in Katie’s life, first with Christ, then with Mark, as she moves from being a girl in pain to a Woman In Love. Katie challenges young women to begin praying now for their future spouses, and encourages them to write personal letters to their own “HTB” while maintaining a pure, chaste life as they wait upon the Lord to lead them to the spouse He has set aside for them since “before they were knit in their mothers’ wombs.”
Recently, Katie took some time to speak with the Sistas about Woman in Love.
CS: Katie, you have a busy life as a wife and mom. Why a book?
KH: I have been sharing this story with the high school girls in my youth program for years. I always thought it was a neat story, and it was great to see so many of my girls start to journal to their “HTB”. However, I never really thought of it as a hugely impactful testimony. That was until Steve Bollman, founder of Paradisus Dei and That Man Is You (and also Mark’s boss), used the story to speak to fathers about the value of purity. Several men approached Mark with positive feedback and one of them said, “Tell your wife to put this into a book so I can give it to my daughter.” The Lord used that moment to put the desire in my heart. The timing has been so beautiful with my recent “retirement” from youth ministry. I am excited to share the beauty of God’s plan for pure relationships as He sees fit!
CS: Katie, it’s so strange to me that during the time when you were going through so much pain, I knew you. I saw you every week singing in the youth choir. It was obvious that you were a leader in your group, that you loved being there singing–and that you felt the words deeply. But (I am sorry to say this) I also remember being offended by your clothing. You were a distraction–a temptation–to boys and men in the congregation. I thought about speaking to your choir director about it…but I didn’t. Now, reading what you had to say about modesty blew me away! One of my favorite parts of the book was your epiphany of why modesty is so important.
But here’s my question: if you were in Mass today, and you saw a girl much like your own teenage self standing in front of the congregation, how would you respond to her? Now that I know what you were going through as a teenager, I see how much I could have hurt you by making harsh comments–even if I had good intentions. You’ve been a youth director, so I’m sure you’ve had to deal with this issue. How do you respond to girls in a loving way that encourages modesty without hurting them?
KH: Honestly, modesty may be one of the less scandalous sub-topics of sexual purity, however it is by far the hardest to express. As I share in the book, I heard an absolute multitude of chastity talks, read many books, and passionately expressed my beliefs on purity all while I was oblivious to its application to my wardrobe. It breaks my heart that you, too, witnessed this naivety! In the last seven years in youth ministry I have witnessed many teenage versions of myself struggle in the same department. Many are teens who are so involved and in love with the Lord yet completely clueless.
As a woman it is just so difficult comprehend the cause and effect of our clothing choices. I saw a quote recently that said, “Men will NEVER understand the agony of childbirth, cramps or removing glitter nail polish.” These are things that cannot be appreciated unless experienced. Similarly, we will never truly appreciate the struggle of men in this department.
I asked several of my teens who exercise modesty where their love and passion came from. I was surprised by their answers. For all of them it seemed that they were given a moment like I had in the dance club several years ago. All of a sudden a switch clicked on and they understood their calling to help men grow in holiness. I sort of relate it to a conversion experience. Someone can explain it all day long, but unless they are open to the Holy Spirit in the timing of God’s plan for them it doesn’t make a difference. Words don’t change hearts, only Christ can do that.
As far as confronting girls about their clothing: personally- I have never called them out individually in that way. I don’t know if that is the correct answer but that is just me. It seems to me that a person who is singled out in that way tends to feel defensive. If an individual isn’t in a position to desire change, they must therefore rationalize their behavior in their mind. They have to either believe the other person is right- resulting in a change in behavior OR become ever more convicted that their behavior is justified.
What I have done instead is seek teaching moments. I hoped to form the girls to help them determine exactly what to look for in modest dress, rather than just inform them that their current outfits were inappropriate. Some of these opportunities have presented themselves in one on one conversations with the girls, but more often I tried to address them as a group. For example, when one of our choir girls wore an incredibly short skirt and an usher wore a strapless dress, I decided to create a dress code to be distributed to everyone in the ministries. Instead of singling the girls out I wrote a loving letter to all members of the ministries about the Wedding Feast of the Lamb and how we should approach our wardrobes as if we were preparing for a wedding. Then I gave specific guidelines (similar to the ones in the book). I also gave very detailed modesty requirements for Confirmation. I didn’t allow shorts on retreats and explained that “too short” was too relative, so I modeled knee length jersey skirts at the informational meeting and told them where to buy and for how much. (This literally started a fashion trend with the high school girls!) Of course I spoke to all of our girls about modesty once a year in our Chastity night at our parish.
That is a really long answer, but a complicated question! I think I am still learning in this area, but I DO know I will have a lot to say to my daughters when they are walking out the door ten years from now!
CS: If you had to sum up the main message of your book in one sentence, what would it be? What’s the most important thing you’d like your reader to take away?
KH: This is difficult because there are two main themes 1) praying for and writing letters to your Husband-To-Be and 2) pursuing a lifestyle of purity. However, when I was writing I kept asking myself, what is my goal? My goal is that young women redefine their approach to Christian purity. That their life rely on one thing, God’s will for them. I hope that girls will read this book and desire to become Women in Love with Christ and trust Him to lead them to the vocation He has in store for them.
CS: I mentioned to you that I’d like to share this book with my sons. I think it would help them to see a girl’s point of view, but maybe even more than that I hope it would inspire them to be that kind of guy that you were praying for. Had you ever considered that your book would be good for guys?
KH: Several of my teen boys have read the book and enjoyed it. I know it doesn’t have the same impact on them whatsoever, but I hope that it helped raise their standards for the woman they seek and who they hope to be. A friend who is a father of two girls and a teenage son told me the biggest lesson he learned was how he wanted to form his son to be the type of man that a Woman in Love would want to marry. I found that pretty incredible!
CS: In the book, it was especially difficult for me to read what you experienced during your parents’ divorce. What would you say to girls who are suffering through a painful divorce?
KH: You are not your mother and your future spouse is not your father. Your love story can end very differently. When your parents fail you, look to the ones who never did, your Heavenly Father and Blessed Mother. Never forget that they are crying with you. Be Christ in your home, even when it seems impossible.
CS: Not everyone goes into marriage so ideally as you and Mark–in terms of being so fully aware of Church teaching, so chaste, so united in their faith, so equally committed to Christ. Do you have any words for women who find themselves in difficult marriages?
KH: In the spiritual life, we find our answers at the cross. The cross is the rule and not the exception. Christ honored His promise to His Bride even when she deserved it the least. When His people crucified Him, Christ remained faithful. The fruit of this is the salvation and of us all. I would promise this woman that her endurance and prayers will also bring about great fruit. She may see it manifest or she may not but the Lord will always answer those who love Him. In difficult times one may find themselves echoing his very words, “Father let this cup pass… not my will but Thy will be done.” Faced with great trials, one must grow closer and closer to Christ.
I know this is easier said than done, but I would advise them to never forget that our wedding vows point toward ourselves and are unconditional toward our spouse’s actions and disposition. As I often remind my teens, “you can only control one person: yourself.” In marriage we promise to honor, be faithful and love our spouse in good times and bad.
CS: Now that the book is finished, what do you do with all your spare time??
KH: Through much discernment the Lord has recently called me to stay at home with my two daughters, Maria, 4 and Clare, 6m. It has been SO wonderful thus far and every day is such an experience of God’s goodness! In the meantime I am pursuing speaking engagements and am excited to see what doors the Lord opens for the spreading of the message of Woman in Love!
If you are interested in learning more about Woman in Love, you can check out Katie’s website, www.womaninlove.org . Copies of Woman In Love can be purchased on the website by clicking bookstore. If you do not have a PayPal account, you may pay on PayPal as a guest or call 832-217-4440. You can also “like” Woman In Love on Facebook to receive Katie’s updates.