Growing up an only child was difficult in some ways. My mother and I traveled along with my sudo step-father (they were never married) with a seismograph company until I was about 12. God was never really mentioned in our house. However, for the short bursts of times we would live in my step-fathers hometown, his sister would take me to her baptist church along with her husband and two daughters. I loved it. Her husband, Bill, was a guitar player for the church, and on various Sunday's, he would play the song "Lily of the Valley". It was my favorite song, and I would request it when I had a chance.
During the bulk of the Sunday service, I was sent in back along with all the other children to Sunday school, where we would learn bible stories and songs. Afterwards, we would rejoin the group in the main church, for what I called "the boring part", the sermon. Then we would stand and sing, and that was that. During one of these bursts of time, my "aunt" Marlene decided that I needed to be baptised. I didn't know this until later, but my mother was completely against the idea, and wanted me to be old enough to decide for myself (I was 7). So Marlene took matters into her own hands. She arranged for me to be baptised, and afterwards I went home and gushed to my mother all about it. I'm not sure if words were ever exchanged about it, and I'm not sure I want to know.
Eventually, we moved back to my home town in Wyoming when I was about 10. By then, we had lived away from Marlene and Bill for so long, that I hadn't gone to church in quite awhile. A summer or two after our move home, I was sent to live with my father for a summer. My real father was never really in my life much. I'm assuming a lot of that had to do with us moving so much. So I didn't really know him or his new wife and step-children. His new wife was a Pentecostal. Having never been exposed to the liveliness of this branch of Christianity, I was pretty scared off. I viewed them as strange (as I had never experienced anything like this in my secular world), and eventually, this idea of all Christians, and anyone with faith, being strange stuck. My mother's own opinions didn't help, as I'm sure the reader can imagine.
By the time I was a teenager, I was so against the idea of being a Christian, that I actually went the other way. I went through a phase where I was doing many things that I shouldn't have been doing. I had lost all trust in anyone, mostly because I was let down so much, and I figured that if I took matters into my own hands, I wouldn't need to rely on anyone. I still struggle with this need to control everything around me. I still have a hard time trusting anyone, even God at times, but through His grace and the sacraments, I hope to work through this.
Now, throughout this whole time, I look back and can see the hand of God at work. During my stint as a baptist, the pastor had mentioned that you should always pray at bedtime, and that made up prayers were better than ready-made. He then told us how to pray in our own words, using the format of the Lord's Prayer. So every night, without fail, I would pray. I started with the classic "Now I Lay Me", and then would go into my own prayer. I always started,
"Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for this day you have given us,
Thank you for all the food you have given us,
Thank you for everything you have given us.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Please forgive me for all the sins I have done."
Hear I would just begin talking to God like I would talk to the very best of friends. I would tell Him all my problems, and all the solutions I would like to see (even if they were selfish ones). But mostly, I would just talk to Him. Then I would end my prayer (if I hadn't fallen asleep yet).
"In the name of Jesus Christ my Saviour, Amen."
Now, during this time, my cousin and best friend, Ashleigh, was busy doing her own thing. She was going through her church's classes, to become a confirmed Lutheran. I teased her a lot about it, but she kept going. Unfortunately for her, she didn't feel she could openly talk to me about her faith, but she still kept going and was later confirmed.
This example, through God's grace, became a turning point for me. I considered joining the adult class and going through the motions of becoming a Lutheran myself. I started going to church with her on Sunday, but I think I was more interested in belonging to something than learning about her faith. I never did join the class.
Fast forward to my very early 20s. I was going to the local community college, with the hopes to transfer to a university somewhere very far away. I was working part-time at a credit union, and paying my own way through school. I had moved (or been kicked) out of my mothers home, and lived in my own place. During my last semester, I begun hanging out with the head teller, Cindy, who was Catholic. I had always been interested in the Catholic church, but didn't think they were Christian (I'm not sure how I got this notion). It was so mysterious, and at one point, I even asked Cindy if it was true if you had to splash yourself with holy water before you walked into the church.
Also at this time, I begun dating my future husband who was also Catholic. He went back home for Christmastime, and I was invited to attend my very first Catholic mass with Cindy, Midnight Mass. What a beautiful time to experience this! I was awed. The mass was so alive, so real! I was hooked, and had to learn more about this very interesting thing I had witnessed. I began pestering Cindy and my future husband, and they very patiently tried to answer my questions.
By the time I graduated the community college, I had decided to go to our local university. It wasn't as far away as I originally hoped, but it was far enough to start me truly on my own in the world. I was also resolved to become Catholic, and entered the RCIA program. I entered into the fullness of the faith on Easter 2005, was married in the Catholic Church in August 2005, and had my first beautiful baby in November 2006.
Throughout my life, I can see God's hand guiding me. He put very special people in my life for a reason, and instead of throwing me face first into what He wanted me to do, He held my hand, and patiently guided me, even when I wanted nothing to do with Him. I am eternally grateful to God for this, and I know He will continue to guide me through and overcome all my struggles (or at least help me carry my cross).