I have been Catholic for 25 years now. How my life has changed in those 25 years, God is good! I was baptized 25 years ago with my daughter, Ashlee and remember very little about it. Looking back I realize that my mom was going through her conversion and just started bringing me along. I went along pretty much because she was my mom. I had no real understanding of what being Catholic would mean. I took RCIA, but honestly I was so wrapped up in this newborn baby I don’t think I paid attention at all. I only knew it was very important to my mom and wanted to please her so I went.
Our family although believed in God, never practiced anything or prayed. I remember being drawn to baby Jesus but not really knowing why. Christmas became a time to write out what we wanted for Christmas and mark the days off until Santa would come. I can’t remember talking about Jesus’ role in it. Not to say it was never talked about, I just don’t remember it.
As a young adult I remember when things didn’t go the way I thought they should, I would have a one person shouting match with God saying “what, you don’t love me? Fine! Why should I even try ?” I wouldn’t be able to count how many conversations I had with God that went exactly like that. I felt all the bad things must mean that God didn’t love me. After being baptized these moments increased as God was trying to pull me nearer. I had no idea that this is what He was doing. I didn’t know He loved me so much and was trying to get my attention.
Over the next few years our family went through troubled times. An ugly divorce that was hurting the kids pushed me inside the Catholic Church doors in Evanston, Wyoming. I had no idea how all of this worked, I just went in sat in pew, and before I knew it I was kneeling and begging God to help my kids. They were being hurt by all the things around them, things I couldn’t control. I prayed that if it were His will a situation would have a certain outcome. I worried that if I relied on my own ideas of how this should end, I would always wonder if I did the right thing. So I gave it to Him and said please do what is right by the kids. To protect my kids I won’t tell that part of the story, but I will say the answer was given to me in a very clear way and the problem was resolved better than I could have ever imagined. It wasn’t until years later I could see how that prayer was answered and am so thankful. Unknowing to me, God was becoming a big part of our lives.
The next couple of years I would find myself at Church very lost but curious. Don, the kids and I would sit in the very back at Christmas time. I still felt so awkward with all the sitting, kneeling, and shaking hands. Then in 2003, our family, Don, myself, Ashlee and Sean moved to Florida because of a job situation. I had never been this far from my family in Wyoming. A month into the move we got news that would change how we saw the world forever.
in February 2003, I was on the phone with my mom, just visiting. I had talked to my sister the day before and knew that her little boy, Brayden was sick with the flu but didn’t know how bad he was doing and mom told me he had been admitted into the hospital. We were talking and she said hold on I am getting a call on the house phone. It was quiet when she picked up the phone and said “I have to go, Brayden crashed!” I had no idea what was going on, she hung up and my heart was in my throat. At first I thought what did they let him fall off of the bed? On the other side of the United States I had to sit and wait to hear back to find out what happened. I can’t honestly remember how long it was until I heard back. But my mom called and said “its really bad.” Feeling stupid I said “what do you mean he crashed?” She said “He was in Janica’s arms and stopped breathing, and it took them 20 minutes to get him back and he is now on life support, they have life-flighted him to Salt Lake City to Primary’s Children Hospital” It took a long time to let that sink in. Instantly I had pictures of my sister in my head, pictures of us as young girls who took care of each other when things were rocky at home and wondering how she would manage to get through this. We have always been very close and my heart just broke. Mom said that she was driving Janica to the hospital and that was a 2 hour drive. I said ok, let me know as soon as you know anything. It wasn’t much longer after that, Janica called me on her cell phone from the road. She cried so hard it was difficult to understand what she was saying. She calmed down just for a few and said, “Toni, he looks better already, now they got the IV in his color is back. He is going to get better, right?” I am not even sure if I answered her. I remember being so scared of the outcome. She said she would call me after she got to the hospital.
After getting off of the phone, I went out to our screened in porch and screamed. I mean screamed and I didn’t care who heard, I yelled at God “How can you do this to her, she can’t handle this!!” I don’t know how long I was out there before Don came out to get me and he had run a bath for me knowing that this would help me to calm down.
That evening Janica called me to let me know what the doctors were saying. It wasn’t good. They recommended taking him off of life support. She was crying and said “I am so confused, I want to keep him here so I can hold him and look at him, but I know that is so selfish, he is such a strong, playful boy I can’t stand the idea of him just laying there. She said I am going to pray and ask God to take him if he can’t heal him and remove the life support” The next day they removed life support and Janica, my niece and nephew said good bye to this precious little 23 month old boy went home to Jesus.
When mom and I were talking about the funeral, I told her I just didn’t have the funds to fly back with the recent move. But God sends angels our way in our time of need and my best friend from high school offered to pay for my ticket to fly out. My husband made all of the arrangements and I really don’t know how I got from point A to point B. I remember being so scared of seeing my sister, what would I say? Could I keep it together and be strong for her?
When I got there there were many things going on, lots of people stopping by. During all of this time we had to go through the preparations of the funeral. I remember Friday night we had confession and then a rosary afterwards. At this time I still wasn’t a practicing Catholic. But because everyone else was I thought I better go into confessional. I remember Father Murray rattling off something and I just stared at him and said “I have never done this before I have no idea what to do” He asked if I had been baptized and I said “Yes” so he asked if there was anything I wanted to talk about. I looked at him having no idea what to say, then I said “I don’t want to be angry” He nodded that he understood. He then put his hands over my head and at this time I had no idea he was praying over me. But what I will never forget was the sense of peace that flooded me and the feeling that I will never be able to describe that went through me from head to toes. When I left and we went back to my mom and dad’s place after the rosary, the mood seemed to have lightened. There was a little bit of laughter and teasing. Years later as a practicing Catholic I understand that Our Blessed Mother covered us in her love and she and her Son eased the pain, even if only for a little while. When I returned to Florida, I had a strong desire to attend Mass. My husband being protestant, didn’t protest at all. He just went with us, the kids didn’t seem to think anything of it and it became a part of our lives. There are so many other things that have happened over the years that I have to be thankful for but this post is long enough and I would be writing a novel if I had any talent for writing.
If God brings us to it, He will bring us through it……….This is true each time and every time I have to remind myself that all those years of telling myself God didn’t love me was a lie. He loves each and every one of us. We just need to turn to Him in our time of pain. Ask Him to help us through it. It doesn’t matter how you do it. All I said was “I don’t want to be angry” and he transformed my life.
I hope you will share your conversion story with me. I would love to hear it, please leave a link in the comments below.