Monday, June 14, 2010

My Faith Story

Ok so I've been meaning to write this for a while now, just trying to find the right time to get it all out. Our resident House Mother Leila had asked us to post about our Faith story a while ago, so here it is::

I guess I should start from the very beginning for all of this to make sense. My Grandma P is a very devout Catholic, she was the youngest of 12 and her father died when she was a baby. All of her siblings are very strong in their faith. She passed that on to my mother. My mother is an only child, (not by choice) she has always loved the Church, she even went in the nunnery (?) after high school. Luckily (for me) she decided that wasn't the path the Lord had for her and went off to College and met and married my dad. My dad's mom Nona, also came from a Catholic family. She was the eldest of 8. Her mother complained about each child she had and said it was just another mouth to feed. Nona wasn't very devout in her faith, and neither was my father. I was the 5th daughter to be born. My father left my mother while she was still pregnant with me. My mother moved all of us from NJ to OH, and my older sisters were not happy with that. We hardly ever saw my father. He never called or wrote or sent cards to any of us. My older sisters took it very hard. My mom and my step dad married when I was about a year old. Because I almost never saw my "real" dad, I had assumed that my step-dad was my dad. I called him dad. I remember when my real dad picked us up from the airport and I told him he wasn't my real dad, that he was my step dad, whoa, I was in trouble! I was only 4! I had no idea what was going on at that time. Finally I started noticing that my older sisters weren't calling our step-dad "dad". I wanted my sisters approval so I stopped calling him dad. That was a huge turning point in our relationship. My mom had my little sister when I was 2 &1/2. We were really close for a long time.
Meanwhile my sisters were going threw lots of terrible times, and I was put on the back burner. No one seemed to care about me. My mom worked hard. She and my step-dad had allot of problems in the beginning, so he wasn't even living with us for a long time.
There came a point when my little sister realized that she could get me in trouble for anything, because her dad would take her side over mine any day of the week. That started a whole new set of problems. For years it was me and my mom vs my sister and step dad. Our house was in Chaos from as far back as I can remember.
But one thing that was constant through it all was our Faith. Even though bad decisions were made and our lives seemed out of control, we always had our Faith.

I loved the Catholic church growing up. I knew the entire Catechism from front to back by heart. I loved the movies on the saints. My Grandma P had The Song of Bernadette, and Miracle Of Our Lady Of Fatima. Oh how I wished so badly that I could have been one of those children! I think that this was my own way as a child to get some peace. I could tune out the rest of the world and be entranced by these amazing true stories. For years I prayed and prayed that I could be a visionary. That is what I wanted out of my life more than anything. We picketed at abortion clinics, and prayed the rosary. As we got older and moved to IN, my parents joined a group of families and had a HomeChurch. All these families got together on a Sunday night and prayed the rosary, then the adults had there time to pray and talk and all us kids (there were allot!) got to hang out and play and do whatever. It was awesome! :)

But I'm getting a little ahead. I was an ugly duckling. I developed early, and was not excited about that. I was really embarrassed. My mother was from the old school and refused to talk about gasp! "your body" ! I had no idea about anything that was going on. My older sisters were all finally in college and getting back on track in their lives. My sister C who is 3 years older was always this amazingly beautiful and talented person. She wanted nothing to do with me. I was a nerd. She was popular. I was tormented in school and was compared to her constantly.
Growing up we saw my dad twice a year. One week for Thanksgiving and 2 weeks out of the summer. That was it. And I loved my dad. Even though I never saw him, I had this love for him that I think is just ingrained in you. You can't help but to love your parents. That's why when one summer he asked my sister C to move in with him, my heart broke. I said that I wanted to move in too. (even though i really didn't, I love my mom and could never have left her) I was testing my dad. And he failed. He laughed and then said that I was too little.
So here I was going threw this horrible awkward phase and my own father didn't want me. It hurt, bad.

A few years later, he was diagnosed with Leukemia. He battled that for years. Finally He died right after Christmas on the Feast of the Holy Family 1997. I was almost 15. My world fell apart. My home life was always up and down, never knowing when the next fight would happen, and now my dad was gone. It was a very weird time for me. It started a depression that lasted for 2 years.
After my dads funeral, we had to greet all the family that came to pay their respects and one Uncle made a comment that all my dad wanted was to have a boy, how important it was for him to have a boy, and he never did. That was the worst thing I think I could have heard at that point. Because what I actually heard was that my dad didn't want me at all! He left my mom because I was a girl, my entire family went through hell because of me. I was no good. This is what was fixed on my brain for a very very long time. This changed me.

I was already just a teen going threw some big mood changes, and all this happening made it all seem so much more blown out of proportion. I felt out of control and helpless. I locked myself in my room all the time. I started getting high and going out and partying. I did everything a good Catholic girl shouldn't have been doing. I had bad friends, made bad choices. I was truly depressed at this time. I was looking for something, and I didn't know what. I still went to church because I had to. But as I was making these bad choices, I felt worse and worse about myself. There came a point where I wanted to end my life. I thought about it all the time. I told myself there wasn't a God. There couldn't be. Because if there was one then none of this stuff would have happened to me. My life was a wreck.

The summer after my Sophomore year in high school my mom signed me up for a weekend retreat at the Franciscan University of Stuebenville. Then I had to stay at my sisters house near the university to babysit while she went to summer classes. I hated her for making me go. I had a boy that I liked that I was hoping to make my boyfriend that summer and my friends were all going to be doing fun stuff, and I was going to miss out! This retreat was ok. I liked it, but I wasn't ready. Somehow I managed to find the "bad" kids at a Catholic retreat! For me it was a social event that summer. But it changed something in me. When I was done baby siting for the summer I was different. I decided that I didn't want to hang out with the same people. It took a while, but midway through the school year, I made new friends. They weren't ideal, but they were better. The next summer I went to the retreat again at the Franciscan U.
This is the summer that changed my life. The theme this summer was "Father". This summer I learned about Gods love for me, and how He is my Father. God will never abandon me. God has always loved me for me, and no matter what happens He will forgive me. I have never cried so hard in my entire life. I was filled with the Holy Spirit from head to toe! This weekend I forgave my dad. On Sunday, there is a time where you can share your experience in front of everyone! I had to get up there. I never felt so good. I was calm and excited and on fire for the Lord! It was amazing.
When we got back everyone was telling my parents about my experience. And I wasn't embarrassed at all.
Life didn't change drastically. We still had problems in our family and after a few months my fire died out. I still wasn't living my life as I should have. But it was better.
In the years after my dad passed away, I prayed for his soul constantly. I was so afraid that he was going to hell. One night my prayers were answered. I had a vision of my father. He was on his way into heaven. I won't go into detail here, but he did tell me that everything was ok. He was ok. That solidified my feelings of forgiveness.
I still had some issues with my step dad though. After high school I moved out of my parents house, lived with a sister in her basement for a year, then got my own place for another year. I met and eventually lived with a boy I thought I was in love with. I moved across the country for him. He turned out to not be such a good guy. I was going to church by myself at this point. He refused to go with me. I ended our relationship, and during this time I met E. After a whirlwind romance we got married at the Little White Wedding Chapel and hadn't really told anyone! E started going to church with me, and I decided that I needed to live what I preach. E came into the Church Easter 2009 and our marriage was blessed right before that.

About 3 years ago My mom called me after she and my sisters went to an adult retreat at the Franciscan University of Stuebenville. My mom runs a resource center for the Church, and was buying some books while she was there. While they were listening to a speaker, my sister opened a book and read a story about a girl who had all these older sisters, and her dad died and had this horrible time. It was my story! I was recorded all those years ago at the retreat, and it was put into a book! My step dad had read it and apologized to me for the way he treated me. He said he didn't know how hurt I was by him and my dad. My step dad has become a very devout Catholic too. He always believed, but has had his own demons to deal with.

So now here I am. I am loved. I have no doughts in my mind about Gods love for me. About his awesome kindness and forgiveness. I have an amazing Church that we attend and I love to teach E and Gabe about the Saints that I grew up learning about.
Praise be to God for his loving kindness! :)


Joy Beyond the Cross said...

This is such a great faith story! I love how it all came full circle with the retreat on God the "Father" at the Steubenville conference. Yes, there is still growth to be had (by all of us), but God knows where we need to be healed the most and brings those circumstances to our front door! I think that is crazy about your family reading about your story in a conference book. That is providential! Thanks for sharing your story!

Leila said...

I love this!! I think I get inspired more with each story that I read.... Thank you for doing this, and boy it just reminds me that looking back on a life, we can see the hand of God in it all the way through, even if we don't necessarily understand it in the moment. God is so good!
-- The House Mother :)

Danya said...

AMAZING! "Here I am loved"...honestly...only God the Father could've rescued you from all that mess - and in such a valiant way! I have tears in my eyes reading about all of your hurts - but I'll try not to be mad for you. (I do that sometimes - character flaw.) Thank heaven you found a way to forgive all of it - what a witness girlfriend! I'm beyond impressed! May God continue to heal and bless you abundantly! D