Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Just wanting to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Conversion Story Part VII - Home at Last!!

I didn't plan it that way, but I think it's neat that it took seven installments to tell my story.  Seven is the traditional Biblical number of completeness (although it could just mean that I'm long winded and maybe the reader is just thinking, "please get to the point lady").  Alright, here we go...

I attended Mass for three years before entering the Catholic Church.  That is a long time to be in the presence of the Holy Eucharist and not be able to partake of it (and also not to be able to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation).  To be fair, I have met people who have attended Mass much longer than that and not converted, but I really wanted to receive Jesus in the Eucharist, I referred to it here in Part II.  I actually wanted to come into the Church in 2010 but I missed the RCIA cutoff and a priest wisely asked me to wait a year to give Doug more time to accept it.  It was disappointing and frustrating to wait another year but in hindsight I saw God in the decision and used the time to practice "loving my husband without words" approach to evangelizing.  I entered the Fall 2010 RCIA class to prepare to join the Church at Easter Vigil 2011.

RCIA = Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults.  For those who have never heard of it, it is a class most Catholic Churches require you to take in order to teach the Catholic faith to adults who were not raised in the Catholic Church or those raised Catholic who did not join the church during their confirmation process.  Usually the sacrament of confirmation is done around the junior high / entering high school age, so it is rare that someone is raised Catholic but not confirmed.  Most of the people who go through RCIA are coming from a different faith background.  Catholics can take the class just to learn their faith better and you are not required to join the Church at the end of the class.  RCIA was a sacrifice on my family, Doug already had plans on Tuesday nights but that was when the class was offered.  We would frequently pay a babysitter to come watch the kids for about 1 1/2 hours so I could attend class (which was not always in the budget).  Plus, I was newly pregnant with our 5th child, and my due date fell only a few weeks from Easter!  I admit I was not the happiest camper about being "required" to attend RCIA.  At this point I had been studying the Catholic faith for about 5 years, my Catholic friends joked I was "more Catholic that they were".  I was failing to see why all this sacrifice was required, not only of me, but of my family too.  However, I fell in love with my class.  God showed me that some things just have to be learned in community.  Joining the Church wasn't just about "me", I was joining a "family".  I learned things from the other members of my class that I could not have learned otherwise.  You can't out give God, and He used that sacrifice, it was so much sweeter entering the Church, not in spite of the hardships but because of it.

Princess and newborn Toddler Boy
I went into labor the weekend after Ash Wednesday, Toddler Boy was born March 11, 2011.  Even after looking forward to entering the Church for so long I "felt" unprepared to actually join.  That Lenten season was a disaster, all of my personal Lenten plans bit the dust.  When I complained of this to my RCIA teacher, she wisely responded "having a newborn is probably sacrifice enough".  The feelings were probably due to the crazy postpartum hormones more than anything else, plus the lack of sleep a newborn brings to the household.  I prayed to God about this the day of Easter Vigil and He showed me how He wanted it that way all along.  That I needed to know that I didn't "earn" my way into His Church, that it was a gift He was giving me.  It was never about me, it was always about Him, all along.  Becoming Catholic wasn't going to magically transform me into a better Christian, it was just part of my journey.

Although Doug was not happy about my conversion he did attend the Easter Vigil Mass, along with our children and 6 week old baby.  I probably should have warned him that Easter Vigil is a really long Mass, but I didn't know it at the time.  Immediately after receiving the Eucharist I had to go relieve my mom and nurse my screaming newborn in the cry room.  I could hear his cries from the front pew and the only thing that kept me there was my sponsor, who kept whispering to me "you can't leave right now, he'll be ok, let your mom handle it".  In reality, he had only been crying for a few minutes, but of course as a mom of a newborn it felt like hours.  The Church held a little potluck afterwards and then a thunderstorm had us driving home in the rain.

So where are we today?  When I started going to Mass I would do "double duty" and attend both the Catholic Mass and the Protestant church with my family.  I still continue to do this today, because I believe that our children's spiritual upbringing belong primarily under their father's leadership and he is a faith filled Protestant who wants to see them raised in the Protestant faith.  I don't hide my Catholicism anymore, although I don't flaunt it either, I just live it.  We still homeschool, and I teach my children the distinctions between both our faiths.  They are active in our Protestant church, and I am happy about that.  My husband is also active in the Protestant church with their youth sports program and our family attends church faithfully every week.  I am active in my parish home, especially with their pro-life work and women's bible studies.  I now serve as a cantor too (this is the person who leads the singing at Mass).  I love singing the old hymns that I grew up with at Mass and it is an honor to serve in this way.  Jesus continues to reveal himself to me through the Catholic faith and I am deepening my relationship with the saints, especially my patron Saint Gianna Beretta Molla and the Blessed Mother too.  The beauty of the saints and what the Holy Spirit has taught me through them, both during and after my conversion, deserves a whole post to itself.  I have finally arrived at my home Church, although there was a bit of an adjustment period.  There is a whole Catholic "culture" that comes with it that people who were raised in the Church do not always appreciate.  The Catholic church contains a depth and wealth of knowledge and I have really only scratched the surface.  I'll close with the ending of the last book in the Chronicles of Narnia (which my children have just finished reading), because for me entering the Catholic Church was only the beginning of the real story.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Conversion Story Part VI - The Marriage Tester

I left off in the last post saying Doug and I parted ways.  Maybe I should clarify that statement, we didn't get a divorce if that is what you are thinking!  Although both of us would admit that at times it probably seemed like the easier, less painful path.  However, neither of us believe in divorce as an option.  So instead it was "trial by fire".

December 12, 1998
Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Our marriage has always been one of spiritual unity.  We were brought up in the same faith and we sincerely held the same religious beliefs, up to this point.  But as I continued to follow Jesus deeper and deeper into the faith it drew me farther and farther away from my husband.  He just could not go where I was going.  So this led to a painful back and forth for both of us.  I would try to hold back, but not following where Jesus was leading was not an option for me.  I had to put Jesus first, when it comes to a choice between my beloved husband and my Savior I have learned that Jesus must take priority.  I have a "people pleaser" personality, so this was a difficult past lesson to learn.  If I put Doug first, I make him into my own personal "god", and this never works out well for our relationship in the long run.  Doug loves me, but he is human and cannot possibly be expected to fulfill Jesus' place in my life.  In the beginning, Doug would try to confront me about my emerging beliefs, but these discussions would always break down into hurtful arguments and disagreements.  Doug was absolutely hostile to the Catholic faith, he sincerely believed (at the time) that it was a false religion and that I was travelling down the road to apostasy.  He was concerned about the state of my soul.  We got to the point where we could not even talk about spiritual issues, because it would always boil down to a Catholic vs. Protestant argument.  Considering that Catholics and Protestants share probably 95% of the same beliefs this is a sad testament to how bad things had become between us.

We both experienced incredible loneliness at this point.  This is not something we could discuss outside our marriage because we both still loved each other and we didn't want to reveal to those close to us how much we were hurting.  We didn't want our loved ones to take sides.  Doug and I struggled to find spiritual activities that we could both enjoy.  In order to keep the peace in our home I would keep my emerging Catholic spirituality to myself.  I would hide my Rosary and wear my Miraculous Medal under my shirt because I knew that seeing any Catholic stuff was painful to Doug.  I worked on showing love to Doug instead of trying to preach.  I secretly watched the Mass on EWTN, and shows like The Journey Home program to help strengthen my faith.  After two years of just watching the Mass on t.v. I actually started attending Mass at my local parish.  This was the summer of 2008, we had just had our fourth baby, and our first daughter!  We would start homeschooling in the fall of that year and there was exactly one homeschooling family in my parish.  God arranged for us to meet and they really helped strengthen me as our family started that journey.

Picture of some of our West End Pro-Life Group
God also led me to other authentic Catholics that worked in the pro-life movement (what Protestants would consider "born again" Catholics).  I was amazed to find such a vibrant Catholic faith and a love for Jesus among these people.  Before attending Mass I had begun to wonder if the Catholic faith was dying because all the Catholics I knew were not strong in their faith.  I was thrilled to meet and become friends with the people in my new parish home.  God had heard my prayers and took pity on my loneliness by bringing them into my life at the exact moment that I needed them.  To be fair, I think they needed me too.  My zeal for learning about their faith and the understanding I brought with me was like a breath of fresh air for them.  At this point I had a lot of personal experience with different Protestant denominations, ranging from Presbyterian, to Baptist, Methodist, Church of Christ, Lutherans, Pentecostal and Charismatic.  I even had friends who were Muslims, Mormons, and Jehovah's Witnesses.  Many of my new Catholic friends only knew other Catholics.  It was not unusual for them to have no experience with any other type of denomination.  I can only pray that I was a good representation of your typical faith filled Protestant to them, and that my unending questions did not drive them crazy.

A few days after Christmas that year I would have a medical emergency that would permanently alter Doug and my relationship.  My appendix ruptured, but was misdiagnosed as a kidney infection.  Which meant it would be seven days, and with me being on death's doorstep, before I would have emergency surgery to remove my appendix.  Normally, appendectomies are a pretty routine, in and out surgery.  But because of the seven day delay the infection had spread throughout my body and I had become septic.  I spent 10 days in the hospital and required another surgery and four months of modified bed rest and home health care to recover.  The surgeon told me it would probably take about a year before I fully recovered, and he was right.  If you ever read the book Heaven is for Real, that is probably the closest description of what our family went through (except I didn't get the cool trip to heaven out of it).  It's amazing how God uses suffering to strip from us all the unnecessary things in life and bring us back to focus.  This time brought some healing in our marriage and caused us to realize what was really important.  It brought a subtle turning point in how we related to each other, an appreciation that just wasn't there before.  It brought more maturity to our marriage.  We would need this in a few years when I would start attending RCIA classes in the Fall of 2010.

Coming last installment in the story and where we are at today.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Conversion Story Part V - Women in the Church

My last installment was over 6 months ago and the Holy Spirit has been prodding me to finish this thing.  So I left off with a realization that I didn't know as much as I thought about the Catholic Church and the reading of Rome Sweet Home has me pondering the theological implications.  I was trying my hardest to ignore the promptings in my heart about Catholicism and be a good Protestant wife and mother.  After all, I knew that was my calling.  I mean, God gave me a wonderful Protestant husband and children and a great church family and everything was smooth sailing ahead.  That is, until our spirit led pastor started a sermon series on women and their place in the church.

Our pastor is a very gifted preacher and was usually spot on in his sermons.  He put forward that women were absolutely equal to men in God's eyes (so far, so good) and that they are also equal to men in their role and function in the church.  He declared there are no distinctions between the two inside the church or in the outside working world.  He preached the only place that the bible specifies a distinction is within marriage, where the wife is called to submit and respect her husband and the husband is called to love his wife, sacrifice for her, and lead the marriage.  Doug and I both felt a check in our spirit from the start.  We wondered if maybe it was our traditional christian upbringing in the Presbyterian church that caused it.  Remember, in that conservative denomination there was a separate function for men and women.  It appeared everyone else in our current church was in total agreement with the pastor's sermons, lots of "amens" and "preach it" from the congregation.  So why did it feel to Doug and I that the Holy Spirit was giving us a different message?

We decided we needed to do some research on the subject.  What did the Bible say about women and their role in marriage, in society, and specifically in the church?  We prayed, read lots of books and poured over internet articles, and of course read every Bible verse we could find on the subject.  This search also led us a bit into the early church fathers and the Church's traditional thought on women and their role and function in the Church.  In the end (and unknown to us), we fell more in line with traditional Catholic teaching on the subject.  That men and women are equal in God's eyes, but that they hold distinct and equally needed functions in marriage, families, and the church.  We set up a meeting with our pastor.  While ultimately he understood why we believed the way we did he said it was impossible for him to agree with us.  He said his experience with working alongside women in the church told him that it must be God's plan.  We argued that it is dangerous to use your personal experience to supersede what God's written word and tradition has said on the subject.

This also brought into question the issue of authority.  We knew our pastor was led by the Holy Spirit.  What happens when there is a difference in opinion?  What happens when two Bible believing, born again, Spirit led Christians disagree with what the Bible says?  Both of us had sincerely held beliefs but obviously only one of us was right.  Who has the authority to claim what is right?  Our church was a stand alone, pastor led church.  His authority was a board of non-elected church members and other pastor advisers.  But if he was wrong there was no earthly higher authority, he was it.  This rift and difference in belief ultimately led us to search out a new church home.

For me, this was also the start of a search for truth.  I wanted to know what God thought of the whole subject of women's role in His kingdom and issues of authority.  I found out that when you're asking God to reveal His truth to you He will.  God is all about revealing truth to those who honestly seek it.  Just be prepared, because it may not be anything close to what you are expecting to hear!  I would not, in a million years, have guessed that His truth and opinion on this subject laid in the Catholic Church.  This is also where Doug and I would part ways.  He was only willing to go so far with me on this journey for truth, here on in I would be travelling with God alone.

Next installment...our marriage walks through the fire as God leads me closer to home!!

Read Part 4 here

Friday, November 22, 2013

7 Quick Takes - Hives!!

1.  I've not been posting lots of stuff this past month, but I have been writing blog entries (and not posting).  I finally finished my conversion story, it took 7 entries and almost a year and a half of blogging to get it done.  At the prompting of the Holy Spirit, I finished the last three posts this month.  In honor of Thanksgiving being next week, and my gratefulness to God for where my spiritual journey has led me, I'm going to be posting them all next week.  Monday will be Part 5, Tuesday will be Part 6 and the final Part 7 will go up on Wednesday.  This coming Easter will mark my three year anniversary as a Roman Catholic.  It has been an incredible journey so far!  If you could say a quick prayer for my husband and I too, that would be great.  Living a Protestant/Catholic marriage is a cross we never would have chosen on our own, but I believe Jesus is using us in many ecumenical ways to bring some light and healing to the division in the separated Church.

2.  My 8 year old gave me a scare back in October.  Unknown to me, he had went with his older brother out in our backyard to check out the resident frogs AND came back in with multiple mosquito bites!  For normal kids, this isn't such a big deal, but he has a tendency to break out in hives when he gets too many bites.  I didn't notice until he was itching his neck the next morning.  Against my better judgement, instead of giving him oral Benadryl right away I gave him a topical instead.  He hates the taste of the Benadryl and it's always a battle to get him to gag it down (I have three kids who have inherited a terrible gag reflex from me, fun)!  Three hours later he came down with a serious hive attack that scared the life out of me.  His left arm swelled and turned bright red and so did the front of his throat!  After threatening him with serious bodily harm if he did not get the meds down in 2.5 seconds I threw him in a cold shower and kept him talking to me.  I debated whether to call an ambulance the whole time, but he wasn't having breathing issues.  Experience with him and hives told me the attack would subside as quickly as it flared up (which it did).

Like I said, he's had hives before but never this bad.  I was thinking all sorts of expletives in my head as to why I didn't insist on an epi pen the last time he had a hive breakout (not that I would have used it this time, but it would have been nice to have the backup).  I spoke to the doctor about it then but he didn't think that attack was serious enough to warrant it.  You better believe I made another appointment for that Thursday afternoon and absolutely insisted on it for this go round!  I didn't have to argue with him at all this time, but maybe it was the crazed mom look in my eye.  I also came away with an appointment to an allergist to try and discover what, exactly, is causing the reaction.
Game Boy did awesome for the testing
He earned a lunch date with Mom to McD's!
We did the full testing, and thankfully he's actually not allergic to anything.  The allergist diagnosed him with a very high histamine count, which overreacts when he gets too many mosquito bites.  The doctor said he would probably grow out of it, but in the meantime suggested OTC Zyrtec.

3.  So I put the epi pens up on a high, high shelf in the kitchen.  When I say "high", I mean the shelf actually sits higher than the top of the fridge.  They were still in the original, plain looking green box and stuck alongside other plain looking no cause for worry, right?  I came downstairs a few days later to find actual epi pens (thankfully still inside their protective cases) sitting on my kitchen table.  Seriously!  I immediately suspected the 5 and 8 year old but it turns out the culprit was 2 year old Toddler Boy!  Unbelievable that he would scale the counter and three shelves to reach it.  What happened to my sweet little boy?  He has turned into a climbing daredevil extraordinaire.  We've had to change car seats in the van too because he can unbuckle the other one.  He also figured out how to open the baby gate about 6 months ago.  It's like raising Houdini!

4.  Since Toddler Boy is on a roll here, I discovered this in the Living Room...

In case you can't figure it out, that is the counting bears from our math curriculum taking a peanut butter "bath".

I had to remove him from this
when I realized it was turned on
and he tried to drive thru some
empty boxes!
5.  The kids and I about got ran over coming out of Wal-Mart this week by a woman talking on her cell phone.  This right after my second son accidentally rammed his cart into the back of my leg and took the skin off my ankle (in his defense, I had to stop suddenly because a man in a wheelchair steered in front of me).  We were pushing two carts with the younger ones sitting in both of them and two weeks worth of groceries and me limping along on my ankle.  We were right in front of the store and still in the crosswalk and almost across when she came barreling down the road.  I thought she saw us (we were pretty hard to miss), but obviously the phone call was more important than the pedestrians.  I lunged forward and grabbed my son's cart and yanked it back out of her path before she looked up, saw us, slammed on her brakes and swerved.  Then of course she had the nerve to throw her hands up (because, yes, of course it's my fault you can't put your phone down and keep your eyes on the road).  I was steaming, my adrenaline was still pumping as I loaded the groceries and sat down in the van.  Doug and Firstborn were still in the store so I had time to calm down a bit before driving home.  I caught myself wondering how the headline on the news would have looked "mom and four children mowed down by driver in Wal-Mart parking lot".  The craziness of the holiday shopping season isn't even here yet and already other shoppers are starting to get to me.

6.  Speaking of shopping, the kids were starting to go stir crazy last week and the weather was a bit yucky so we headed over to Rural King.  There's lots of neat stuff to look at and the older boys wanted to get some new fishing lures.  I like it because the free popcorn keeps the little ones entertained in the cart.  I realized from looking through the clothes section that the camo phase has really started taking off in our area.  Camouflage used to just be for hunters and military, but now women are getting in on the act.  I've noticed a few young women in our area wearing it.  I guess we have Duck Dynasty to thank for that (which is a popular show at our house, with four young men in residence).  There's lots of pink camouflage clothes, they even carry camo liengere!  I'm trying to picture a man hunting in said attire.  The deer would be laughing, I'm sure.
Popcorn, anyone?
7.  Our homeschool has been super busy because this week marked the first week we're trying out the Tapestry of Grace curriculum.  For a first week, it's gone pretty well.  There are a few things I planned that didn't get done (like, say, an art project), but otherwise I'm pleased.  The curriculum takes more planning time than I'm accustomed to because it's new.  Also, this means I need to be able to head to the library to check out books.  Which wouldn't be an issue if I didn't have 1. overdue books to return and 2. two books that need to be replaced because Toddler Boy destroyed them.  "Destroyed" might be too strong of a term, they actually are quite readable, but I know from experience that our library will not accept a book if it has the smallest thing wrong with it.  A tear on a page or any small mark on the cover and that book ends up in our collection at home.  Occasionally, one of my kids will run up with an old library book and say "Mom, we forgot to take this one back"!  I look at it and tell them that, no, it's ours.  One of our family's contribution to society is to keep our library stocked with brand new books.  Doug asked why we didn't have some sort of system, like putting all the library books in one spot on our bookshelf, to keep them out of harms way.  I stared blankly at him and then referenced the epi pen incident (see take #3).  Where, exactly, in our house would a book be considered "safe"?  I ordered the replacement books from Amazon and I'll be heading in to return the other ones today.  I'm wondering if I should just chalk this year up as hopeless and turn in my library card now before I wrack up any more fees and my librarian uncle disowns me.  We paid a lot of money for our card (where we live is considered "county" and not inside the city limits), so I refuse to give in.  Maybe I should buy a gun safe from Rural King and make it into a "book safe"?

Looking forward to next week because Doug's on vacation all week, which makes me happy, happy, happy!!  Go check in with Jen to read more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary!