I am a cradle-Catholic. Born to a very devout Catholic mother who took us to Mass every Sunday, and a father who was raised Baptist, but would attend Mass with us on Easter and Christmas. I have to say that without my mom's life of prayers, rosaries, selfless ministering to others, Mass attendance and insistence that we at the very least respect God and go to church every Sunday that we lived in her household, I would never have made it to where I am in my walk with God today. Thanks, Mom.
Having grown up in NC, my friends were mostly Baptist or other protestant denominations. Around middle school I was eager to go with them to their youth groups as our Catholic youth group was definitely lacking, and of course you want to be with your friends! But that never drew me away from Catholicism, instead it increased my desire to learn more about why we had some very different beliefs....and to draw my own conclusions about where I wanted to belong.
In high school I had my first serious boyfriend and during that time I veered "off-course" and decided to do my own thing (which was basically a life full of sin)...until he dumped me. I was a depressed mess for awhile after that until I went to a Catholic conference where a speaker was telling us about people in the audience who needed to be healed...and then said, "there is a young girl here who is suffering from a broken heart".. well that could have been someone else in the audience, but I knew that person was speaking about me and from that point my heart opened again to God's mercy and love. I attended a Franciscan University of Steubenville retreat in Atlanta that lit my heart on fire for God! I was getting back on the right path!
My senior year of high school I graduated half a semester early and loved this! I was able to spend my mornings at daily Mass and literally hung around the church, praying, embracing the quiet calmness, talking to God. At that point I started to consider a vocation to the religious life. I was so in love with Jesus, that I thought I didn't need to go to college....I just needed to get into a convent somewhere so that I wouldn't have to worry about all the outside influences that tempted me, drawing me into sin!
Well it seemed the only person excited about this idea was a Franciscan brother at our parish! He gave me some information and I contacted some Dominican sisters in Tennessee who told me that I needed to attend college first as they were primarily a teaching community! Oh was I disappointed, but between the sisters and my parents I realized college must come first.
I decided that if I had to go to college I needed to go to a Catholic one. And I applied to Belmont Abbey outside of Charlotte, NC. Well Belmont Abbey brought the best and yet sadly, most sinful years of my life. I wanted to major in theology, but was discouraged by several people not to go that route as it would provide limited work opportunities. I was free there....free to get into credit card debt, go to parties, indulge myself in sin...I would slip back and forth between sin and sanctity there...I wanted to be good, but I was soooooo tempted to be bad. And more often than not, would give in to the temptation.
But Belmont Abbey would give me some of my very best friends...forever friends, as some would say. God wanted me at that college too, because that is where I would meet my future husband.
From Austin, Texas, my future husband had travelled to this small Catholic college in NC. Before we even started dating I thought he would be marriage material. God surely has a way of lining things up! Both my parents had moved from a tiny little city an hour north of Austin all the way to NC....in fact, all of our relatives were still back in Texas. And then in strolls this Catholic Texas boy and I knew he was for me! Little did we know, a year or two before Rob and I met, we had actually both been in the same city in Texas on the same day. I for a wedding, and him to play golf! But God brought us together at the Abbey.
We dated all through college with a rough patch right after our engagement during our junior year. A year after we graduated we got married...July 11th, 2003. I was happy to be marrying a Catholic, but also happy doing what I was doing...which wasn't being a very good Catholic...until our marriage prep weekend. Our parish priest set us down and told us that "we would be using NFP,....right?...oh and by the way, you have to attend this engagement weekend."
Well I was annoyed to have to attend some weekend, even though I loved this priest! He was like a spiritual dad to me. So we go to this weekend and it changed our lives. We learned about marriage as a sacrament...not just some event you have so that you can live together and "be legal"....and once we understood marriage the way it was meant to be, we made a renewed committment to live our lives faithfully, according to God's plan...NFP and all!
That weekend so effected our lives that we became presenting couples for the Engaged Encounter organization in NC, so that we might be an example to other couples who are planning on getting married.
So we're doing pretty good being married but thinking we have "serious reasons" for avoiding a child for the first 2 years of marriage....until we go to this Engaged Encounter national convention in 2005 and God just spoke straight to our hearts about children while we were there. We opened our hearts to God's voice and Isabel was born 9 months later!
Upon having Isabel it was time to get even more serious about serving the Lord. It wasn't just us anymore. We had to be even better examples of Christian parents for her and for ourselves. So that is the struggle we face now...choosing every day for Jesus. And it is a struggle. Some days it's hard to be a good Christian, a good Catholic.
Some days I yell.
Some days I don't have any patience.
Some days I criticize others in my head.
Some days I'm tired and don't want to have a good attitude about making dinner or cleaning up toys for the hundredth time.
But picking up toys and cooking and cleaning and tending to boo boos are all part of my vocation...my vocation which I once thought was to be a nun, turned out to be a wife and mother. And I am so grateful that God led me down this path. Even in losing baby after baby after baby after baby.
I try not to take it for granted.
And when I find myself slipping in some area, or taking a wrong turn, I pray that God will pick me up and set me back on His path. Choosing Jesus is not just a one-time event! It is in every moment of every day.
Now I walk forward in the hope that is my Jesus!