9.9.85 I made my grand ex utero debut into the world. On October 13, I was baptized and became a child of God...and so began our relationship.
I grew up in a pretty awesome family; we had a Norman Rockwell upbringing. My Mom and Dad are my hero's in life. for.realz. They worked and prayed hard, loved each other and us kiddo's something fierce. Mom and Dad are definitely a great example of how to not only survive marriage and parenting, but thrive. I am the oldest of three kids. Out of the three of us, I definitely had the tendency to be the little sass-pot of the bunch...with a mixture of bossiness thrown in for good measure. You know its bad when you have a game you play with your younger sister where I'm the Queen of England (sorry British folks!) and she is my slave who has to polish my shoes...sorry sis!
My parents still live in the same house us kids grew up in, and it was really the only home I've known until I got married. As I have gotten older, I appreciate my family so much more, especially as I have learned that so many people have not been as blessed as I have with a rock-solid, loving family. We can be a crazy, loud bunch at times, but I wouldn't change it for anything.
Jesus and the church thing was a part of our lives: we prayed grace before meals (yes even in public-yup, we were that family:), said bedtime prayers, went to Mass every Sunday as a family...you get the idea. As a little girl looking back, I had a very strong faith from what I vaguely remember and from my parents telling me. I was OBSESSED with Mother Teresa and my favorite Native American 'princess', St. Kateri.
I still remember watching these early documentaries of her in India, my Mom was worried about me watching graphic images of emaciated children and adults, but it never phased me, but rather inspired lots of questions from me (so I'm told). As much as I loved playing dress up and princesses, I equally enjoyed playing "Blessed Mother";give me a baby burp rag or blanket and I was happily pretending to be the mother of Jesus. I liked to blow Jesus kisses at church and walked around with my kiddy rosary as if it were the latest fashion accessory for a three year old little girl.
All simple expressions of what was a child-like faith that was lovingly instilled in me through the witness of my parents.
But you know what? You cannot always just have the faith of your parents; you have to make it your own, personalize it, and know why you personally believe what you do. Not just go to church because your parents "said so" or because its fire insurance so you don't go to Hell.
My siblings and I grew up going to Catholic schools, which at the time I certainly don't think I appreciated the great sacrifices my parents made to give us a Christ-centered education. I remember my Dad saying to me once he would take a second job bagging groceries if he had too, so he and Mom could afford to send us to a school that instilled our faith in education. I actually went to Catholic schools my whole life, Kindergarten-grad school.
As I got older I definitely took for granted the gift of faith instilled in my heart as a young child. Sure I knew the 10 Commandments by heart and how to pray the rosary, but there was not a very deep personal relationship with Jesus. Just a bunch of "stuff" I did because my parents expected it and I didn't really no anything different.
I have this distinct memory of me as a junior high student standing at Sunday Mass
I was confirmed in the 8th grade. Honestly what I remember most were two things: how excited I was for the party after the ceremony at church, and also that the bishop who confirmed me almost caught himself on fire during the middle of his sermon. Talk about tongues of fire!
I tried out the Youth Group at our church in high school. I went two years but never really found my niche or comfortable around any of the teens that went. I remember wanting to fit in so badly and feel like I was a part of the group, but I never made a deep, lasting connection with anyone there...and looking back I realized I was searching for something deeper and more meaningful that what I seemed to find there.
My junior year of high school till I graduated was a really rough time for me. I was very unhappy emotionally and struggled with anxiety. I was confused, unhappy, and horribly sad, but I couldn't explain it. I started to get help, which helped me work through and sort out things. When it was really bad, I can distinctly remember thinking to myself, "Geez I should get an Oscar for the performance I give every day!" On the outside I was the happy, smiling kid I had always been but the inside I felt so alone and unhappy. I didn't understand, which eventually led my to turn my anger and frustration onto God. If He loved me, why the heck was I suffering this way?! If God is a good God, why would he let me feel such pain on the inside?!
I was just so frustrated emotionally and spiritually, I felt like there were not many places to turn to. It was draining and exhausting to just live life. Looking back, I see how God allowed those experiences help me deal with other things that would come up in my life, and how to handle them with courage and expectant faith.
Randomly one evening I asked my Dad to take me to this chapel where the Eucharist was exposed 24 hours a day and people come and prayer and spend time with Jesus. So after that first time, my Dad and I would start to have our "Date Nights with Jesus" about once a week in the evening. In the fall, I started college and continued to go myself. I really enjoyed just going being quiet with the Lord, journaling, or just telling Him in my heart all I was feeling and going through.
One afternoon I was in the chapel all alone. I was crying. A LOT (we're talking ugly cry here folks...you know when the mascara runs down your face). I was mad at God and just dumping it all on him; the misery, pain, confusion, hurt.
I basically yelled at Jesus and
And in that moment, I KNEW God heard that prayer. I felt it in my heart. I knew Jesus was real, that he really was present in the Eucharist, and that he was with me in those moments as I just poured out my heart to him. And somewhere, deep inside my soul, I felt that that was the first really true heart-felt prayer of my life.
I didn't hear an audible voice. An angel from Heaven didn't descend form the sky, but I just KNEW God showed up that day in the chapel with me, just as every time I pray he shows up whether I feel Him near me or not. But looking back over my life, that was a turning point for me in my faith; and I consider that prayer the first real, heartfelt prayer of my life.
Of course I am NOT trying to say one can "pray away" anxiety or emotional problems. I still have to be more aware of situations that cause me to be overly anxious. But my Catholic faith has strengthened me, its where I find my peace, joy, my identity, and purpose in life. It keeps me going. Growing in my faith and having a personal relationship with Jesus has definitely helped me as I work through issues in my own life.
From that one experience in the chapel, just sparked such a deep desire to know who Jesus was for me, Patty. To understand the Catholic faith, not because my parents made me, but because I wanted to for myself. I wanted to be a Catholic Christian because I wanted too (looks like the grace of my Confirmation finally kicked in! ;)
I became involved in Bible studies, young adult groups, volunteered, and went on mission trips/pilgrimages; all that helped nurture a budding new faith in me. I learned how to be still with the Lord, but also how to pray and why it really is as important as eating every day. I studied, prayed, read, and reflected my way to re-discover what I always had, but just took it for granted. I wanted to really know Jesus and have a personal relationship with Him.
I dove into the Scriptures head first, almost shocked at how much application and relevance there was for me in my own life. For me, I re-discovered the faith that my parents had me baptized in. Sure I've made plenty of mistakes along the way, and still have a ways to go to Heaven, but I wouldn't change it.
I'm VERY much still a work in progress; but I strive to keep my eyes fixed on Christ. I am grateful I have come to re-discover and appreciate the faith of my childhood. I've made it my own, its no longer just the faith of my parents. And sure since then, there have been times of sorrow and pain.
Even now in my life as a 'somewhat' newly married wife, God is really doing some major purification in the lives of both my husband and I. Some days I hate it and it royally sucks...but I
And my no means are God and this girl's story finished yet! I will be learning.growing.making plenty more mistakes. until the day I take my last breath. I may have never officially "quit on Jesus", but I am blown away how much God can use any situation in our lives to teach.humble.draw us closer to Him.
The journey is not over yet...the Shepherd has this little lamb caught in his flock, and oh what a wonderful place it is to be.