Received into Full Communion

It’s official. I’m Catholic!

I have been trying all day to come up with the words to describe Saturday night’s Easter Vigil Mass. I’m falling short. Of course, it was beautiful. It was amazing. It was wonderful. It was awesome. I can think of many other overly-used words that describe the service, and all are true as these words are all true. But none of them are sufficient. My experience at the Mass Saturday night was indescribable. Truly, I do not think I can put into words what it is like to be baptized, then confirmed, then receive first communion all in one night.

But you know I’m going to try anyway, so here goes.

I laughed. I cried. I got drenched. I got oiled. Twice. It was incredible. Joyous. Emotionally wonderful and exhausting.

There was almost complete darkness. There was a huge fire. There were hundreds of candles. The readings and music were some of the most beautiful I have heard. One woman read an extremely long passage about the Israelites’ escape from Egypt. She sang the whole thing. And this was just in the first hour.

After that is when the big things started for me and my friends.

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(The water was supposed to be heated but something went wrong. So it wasn’t.)

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I can’t quite say what being baptized was like for me. I alternated between fighting back tears and beaming with joy.

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And that was only the beginning.

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I chose Rita as my confirmation name. Saint Rita is the patroness of impossible cases. I chose her for many reasons, not the least of which is that a year ago I would have said it was impossible that I would become Catholic. Ha!

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The best part of the evening was receiving communion with my husband. Walking up to our priest. Receiving the Body of Christ,

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the Blood of Christ,

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and then returning to kneel, pressed side by side with my husband in thanksgiving and praise, was an experience I will never, never forget.

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We are finally home together, in a place of peace and joy, and able to fully worship as a family. What a tremendous blessing.

When the Mass was nearly over, our priest called me in front of everyone to be interviewed about the experience of conversion. I had learned just Saturday morning that this was going to happen. I stood up and told our packed church that I used to be an atheist and explained a little bit of how I came to my desire to become Catholic. I didn’t share the whole experience (the whole story part one, part two, and bonus part three), but I did talk about how my husband lost his voice for six months and that this was one of the events that prompted my search for God and led me home to the Church.

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I was nervous and excited and trembling for most of the evening.

I couldn’t believe it when the Mass was over. It all went by so quickly.

As my husband and my sponsor and I waited in the gathering space in the front of our church for my Mother- and Father-in law, Super Friend and her Super Husband to come out, so many kind people approached me to express congratulations and welcome. Strangers shook my hand and hugged me and told me how happy they were for me.

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It was a celebration with many of those closest to my heart. Guess who that is?? ^^^

Yes, my sister, my Super Friend was of course with me last night.

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The Godmother ^^

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My sponsor is an incredible woman who taught me and inspired me so much.

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^^Some of the other people who shared this experience with me. After meeting many of them, my Mother-in-law commented that she can understand why I have said I will miss our Monday-night meetings.

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^^ My wonderful in-laws made a long trip to be with us.

And the best of all. My heart:

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The best part was sharing it all with my husband.

So may people showed such love and support for me in this process. My family and friends, as well as many of you whom I’ve never even met. Thank you so much. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

It was an evening of joy and grace beyond words. My heart is full.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Holy Week

This has been an incredible Holy Week so far. I have never in my life focused so much on the events and meaning of this week. Similar to my experience at Christmas, I have now actually learned to whole story of Jesus’s death and resurrection and the week leading up to these.

Tomorrow is Holy Saturday and I am so excited to finally and officially enter the Catholic Church. But for today I’m trying to stay focused on the crucifixion. So, I’m going to keep this short.

I wanted to do lots of things this week to help the girls (and myself) understand and focus on the events of Holy week. I got most of my ideas for the things we did this week from this post at Catholic All Year.

Tuesday we listened to our Stations of the Cross CD.

Wednesday the girls and I read Matthew 26:14-16 about Judas’s betrayal of Jesus. I hid 30 quarters for them to find and we talked about what Judas did. I went to confession for the first time. It was a difficult and amazing experience. I might write more about it later.

Yesterday I hid our Resurrection Eggs. After the girls found them we opened each one as we read the book Benjamin’s Box. I changed the reading of the book slightly on the page about the institution of the Eucharist, but otherwise it was a great book to help them understand the events of Holy Week.

After nap time they watched The Prince of Egypt while I cooked dinner. I made a somewhat Passover-ish dinner, with Lamb, asparagus, flat bread, and red grapes. Miss informed me, “Mom, they didn’t have asparagus at the Passover!” I guess next year I’ll feed them bitter greens.

We read the story of Jesus washing the disciples’  feet and had a family foot washing. The girls really got into this.

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My husband and I went to Mass. It was beautiful.

Today we have a morning play date where we will have a special Story of the Passion snack with Super Friend and her family. We will do the Stations of the Cross again. I will go to Adoration. I am making this crown of thorns bread with our dinner.

I think my girls have really learned so much this week through all these different activities. And so have I.

I have had such an amazing experience of support and love from so many people this week with unexpected gifts, prayers, and words of welcome and encouragement. Thank you all.

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A Day in the Life – My Monday

Seems like the “Day in the life” posts are all the rage these days. I’ve read lots of them (like Grace’s, Kendra’s, and Blythe’s), and I think they are strangely interesting. I thought there was a link up of “day in the life” posts somewhere that I was going to throw my hat into (does that even make sense?), but now I can’t find it, so whatever. I’m going solo. Here’s my day (Monday):

4:57 am – I hear a door closing. Wake enough to check the video monitor and confirm that all of my children are in their beds. Lass is sitting up playing (hence the door). Congratulate myself for still having a video monitor on my girls (even though two of them are probably too old for it), which allowed me to not get out of bed to investigate door sound.

5:03 am – Curse myself for having video monitors. Lass is playing too loudly for me to go back to sleep. Turn volume down.

5:30 am – My alarm goes off. I say my morning offering and get out of bed.

5:32 am – Come downstairs. Look outside to see a completely flooded front yard. With snow. Water and snow. Consider checking the basement to make sure it’s not wet. Decide I don’t want to know quite yet.

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5:33 am – Sit in my comfy chair to say my prayers. I can hear Lass playing the whole time and am hoping she’ll stay in her room for a while.

5:55 am – Make coffee. Experiment with different flashes (pop-up flash, external flash at a few different angles) for this photo. Decide I like the dark, blurry, no flash pic the best. It fits the mood of the moment.

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6:05 am – Can’t find my phone. Go up to my bedroom to look for it. Find phone along with my husband, who is awake and reading a book that he cannot seem to put down.

6:06 am – As I’m almost back down the stairs I hear Lass open her bedroom door. I hurry down the last step to get around the corner into the office and not be seen. She goes back in her room.

6:11 am – Start reading Bible (Luke 21) by Kindle-light

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6:15 am – Lass comes downstairs and climbs in my lap for snuggles.

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6:19 am – Lass goes into playroom and I resume my reading, this time with the regular light on.

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6:25 am – Hear Sis wake up. She doesn’t sound unhappy. I keep reading.

6:30 am – My husband comes downstairs and continues reading his addictive book.

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^^ Notice the raised eyebrow. He is wondering why I’m taking his picture.

6:34 am – My computer is freezing up. I try to close and reopen my browser. It doesn’t work. I try other stuff.

6:45 am – My computer is still not working right. I’m starting to freak, because my time is running out. I go make another cup of coffee.

6:51 am – Plan to restart computer because nothing else has worked. Then I don’t have to, because it suddenly starts working well again. Yay! Check email and Facebook.

7:00 am – Miss comes downstairs.

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She goes straight to looking out the front window at our snowy lake.

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7:08 am – I’m trying to read one last thing (Today’s post from Carrots for Michaelmas) before starting into the business of the day. Miss is pouting and complaining because I’ve told her we cannot go outside and play in our “puddle.” (update on Tuesday- I started this post on Monday and am finishing it on Tuesday, so the Carrots post is actually from yesterday)

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7:15 am – Miss is still pouting about not being able to go out in the water. She says, “Fine. Then I’m not going to give you any hugs and loves and kisses this morning.” I finish the blog post I was reading (finally) and go upstairs to get Sis (who is still happily hanging out in her crib). She says, “I poop. I pook.” Happily, she had done neither.

7:21 am – Come downstairs with Sis to see that my husband has cut his hair and trimmed his beard. And Miss has stopped pouting.

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^^ This time he asks me why I’m taking his picture. I give him a vague non-answer.

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7:23 am – My husband leaves for work.

7:28 am – I finally muster the courage to check the basement and find it dry.

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7:31 am – I make breakfast. Oatmeal.

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7:41 am – I call the girls to wash their hands for breakfast. Lass gets upset. She says, “I am not going to eat breakfast!” I remind her of our rule, which is that she doesn’t have to eat but she has to wash her hands and come to the table. Then she has a fit about washing her hands. I remember that she woke up before 5 am. The other girls start to eat.

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7:47 am – Lass finally starts eating. She says, “Mom, I’ll try some before I say ‘yuck.’ Mom, I like this oatmeal.”

7:52 am – The girls are done eating. I realize that I have stepped in oatmeal twice and it’s stuck to my socks.

7:53 am – As I take my socks off and determine that I must find the spot of oatmeal on the floor, Lass comes around the counter with her bowl balancing on her hand trying to bring it to the sink. It crashes to the floor and breaks. She melts down when I ask her to help clean it up. I try to show her how to do it. She says she can’t.

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7:59 am – We finally finish cleaning up the oatmeal, though I never do find the spot(s) I stepped in.

8:00 am – The girls are playing and I can hear that Lass is just out of sorts. She’s having a rough morning.

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8:01 am – I go and try to give her some snuggles (which is usually just the trick for her). I’m flat out rejected. I get big snuggles from Sis instead.

8:04 am – Go back to kitchen. Sweep up the pieces of the broken bowl.

8:06 am – Clean up kitchen some more. Start to type a text to Super Friend. Get distracted by Miss asking me where the purple “My Little Pony” is. I tell her I don’t know.

8:09 am – Miss is screaming at Sis. I decide to let them work it out. They do.

8:11 am – Sis calls to me, “Mama, I poopy.” I don’t think she actually is (she says this anytime she wets her diaper too), but I decide to go ahead and round everyone up to go upstairs and get dressed. I change Sis and put her clothes on.

8:18 am – Miss is still not dressed. She says, “I am not going to get dressed until you help me find that purple pony!” I remind her how things actually work in our family. She gets dressed.

8:20 am – I unpack the girls’ suitcase from our trip to my parents’ while Miss and Lass make their beds. Miss gets upset when I tell her hers needs a bit more work.

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8:34 am – Brush the big girls’ hair. Lass screams bloody murder, as usual.

8:37 am – Make my bed.

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8:40 am – Go downstairs. Ask the girls if they want to start school now or in five minutes. They reply, “Six minutes!” They always say that.

8:42 am – Miss is still complaining that she cannot find the purple pony. She asks me to help her. I go into the playroom and point out to her that she has not yet looked in the most obvious place, where the pony would be if it was put away properly. I leave her to look there and go finish cleaning the kitchen. I clean three toilets (we have well water and our toilets get gross when the water sits in them when we’ve been gone for a week).

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8:52 am – Announce that six minutes is up (yes, I know that it was actually 12 minutes).

8:54 am – Start circle time in the school room. Pray morning offering. Discuss Palm Sunday a day late. Read some Easter stories. Do calendar activities.

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9:15 am – Get big girls set up coloring their Lenten countdown calendars while I go change Sis (who actually is poopy now).

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9:20 am – Move on to a palm leaf coloring page. Cut out and staple their Letter Y books from two weeks ago while they color and practice writing.

9:29 am – Finish up school. Miss asks to do more. I love this, but I tell her we can’t today because we have to go to the grocery store and the doctor’s office. As I’m about to have them start getting on their shoes and coats, I realize that I haven’t even brushed my hair, so I run up to get myself ready to go.

9:39 am – Accidentally put blush on my forehead. Feel relief that I don’t wear a bright shade of blush. Wipe it off and cover it up as best I can.

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9:45 am – Finish getting myself ready. Grab socks for the girls and myself and hurry downstairs.

9:47 am – Look outside and wonder if I should put snow boots or rain boots on the girls. Decide I don’t care and let them choose. They all choose rain boots.

9:50 am – I tell Lass she is putting her boots on the wrong feet and she spits at me Raspberries, but not funny, playful raspberries. I’m cool with funny playful raspberries. But I don’t do rude raspberries. I lose my temper and snap at her. She has a total meltdown. She wipes a huge dripping snot on her sleeve. I don’t have time to get her a different shirt. She says she isn’t going with us. She unzips her coat and then can’t get it zipped again. I feel like crap. I realize we have two big errands to run before she will get a nap. I take deep breaths. I zip her coat for her.

9:59 am – We are finally in the car and leaving for the grocery store.

10:12 am – I realize I don’t have time to drop the girls off in our grocery store’s childcare area, so they shop with me. They all get into being helpful. Sis develops a love for a can of beans, such that she gets mildly upset, “My beans! My beans!” when we have to put them on the belt to check out.

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10:44 am – We are back in the car after the fastest grocery shopping trip ever. I know I forgot most of what I need, but I’ll be back to the store later this week anyway, so I don’t worry about it. We drive less than a block to our doctor’s office. We’re early. The doctor is not.

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11:15 am – We get called back to our appointment, which was scheduled at 11. My girls are getting tired and hungry (and so am I), and it seems like our appointment takes forever.

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12:00 pm – Miss gets two shots. Sis gets one. Guess who made more of a fuss about it?

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12:18 pm – Finally in the car and on the way home.

12:32 pm – Home. I realize that in the craziness of getting melting-down Lass into the car, I left our door open. I say a quick prayer that there were no critters in our garage that have now found a home in our house.

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12:45 pm – Put away groceries while the girls eat their lunch of leftover Culver’s and applesauce.

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12:58 pm – Spill #2 of the day. Miss cleans it up.

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1:06 pm – Lunch is done. Clean up lunch.

1:08 pm – Round up the girls and head upstairs for naps.

1:15 pm – Read nap stories.

1:28 pm – Sis is down for her nap. Start special time with Lass. She chooses to play with our apostle/Jesus/Mary toys.

1:41 pm – Lass is in her room for her nap. Start special time with Miss. She wants me to choose her activity. I suggest she complete the frame she started before we went to my parents’ last week.

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1:55 pm – Miss is in her room for her quiet time. I change into clothes for exercising, turn on the heater in our garage, and go through our week of mail while waiting for it to heat up.

2:07 pm – Finally finish sending the text to Super Friend that I started in the morning. Clean up boxes in workout area.

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2:10 pm – Go out to exercise. Do a quick warm up and set up for my workout.

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Then get started:

  • 33 back squats
  • 15 burpees
  • 33 deadlifts
  • 15 burpees
  • 33 kettlebell swings
  • 15 burpees

Realize when I start back squats that I have way too much weight on the bar to complete 33 of them. Stop after seven to decrease the load. Proceed through the rest of the workout. Think I might die of burpees.

2:39 pm – Done with my workout. It took me almost 15 minutes. Make another coffee.

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2:48 pm – Sit down for some computer time. Check email and Facebook. Look for something I need on the Elizabeth Ministry website (Super Friend and I are restarting the chapter at our parish). Don’t find what I need.

3:04 pm – Lass wakes up crying. She comes out of her room calling for me. When I get to the stairs she says her toes hurt. I suspect she slept on her foot funny or something. I kiss her toes and give snuggles. She goes back to bed, which I can’t believe. She never does that. Then I remember, she woke up before five am.

3:23 pm – Finish computer wanderings. Call Elizabeth Ministry but they are closed for the day.

3:27 pm – Pray the rosary.

3:45 pm – Get Miss from her rest time so she can practice piano.

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3:58 pm – Finish piano practice with Miss. Get Lass and Sis up from naps. I have to wake both of them. One of them is not ready to get up.

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4:09 pm – After lots of trying and failing to get Lass up, I go downstairs with Miss and Sis and get them started with a snack. I go back up to get Lass and try to give her a snack too. She’s not interested.

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4:18 pm – My husband is home early! Hooray!!

4:22 pm – Get punched in the face by Sis. Give her a short time out. I suspect she enjoys it, but I do it anyway.

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4:26 pm – Get in the shower.

4:52 pm – As I’m blowing my hair dry I realize I need to get going on dinner before I finish getting ready. I go downstairs and start getting stuff together for dinner.

4:58 pm – I laugh to see my husband blowing up Sis’s new birthday Rody with his mouth.

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5:17 pm – Dinner is in the oven (roasted broccoli and this chicken recipe) and I’m back upstairs to finish getting ready.

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5:34 pm – Downstairs. Dinner is ready. Have big girls set the table and wash hands. Eat dinner.

6:02 pm – Dinner is over. My super hubby starts doing the dishes.

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6:05 pm – Say goodbye to the girls and leave for my last RCIA class.

6:25 pm – Get to RCIA. Visit with everyone for a few. Class starts, and we’re just having rehearsal tonight. Go through the whole Easter Vigil Mass. Feel a little bit confident I know what to do when I’m getting baptized, confirmed, and then receiving first communion. Feel relieved we will have another rehearsal on Saturday. I’m nervous and excited and kind of sad because RCIA is over and it has been fun.

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7:46 pm – Home from RCIA. My husband has cleaned the kitchen and got the girls to clean up their toys. Sis has already been bathed and put to bed. Miss and Lass are finishing up their baths. I remember that my husband is wonderful.

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8:21 pm – Done putting the big girls to bed (brushing teeth, reading stories, saying prayers, singing songs).

8:27 pm – Start uploading and editing the photos for this post.

8:44 pm – Putz around on the internet for a bit, checking email, etc.

9:06 pm – Start writing this post.

9:40 pm – Take a break to talk with my husband for a bit.

10:11 pm – Continue working on this post.

10:47 pm – Realize I am not going to get the post done tonight. Go to bed.

Whew! That was long. I have no idea if it was interesting to read, but it was fun to write.

Posted in Miscellany, Mommy Moments, Motherhood, Other Mom Blogs | 5 Comments

7 Quick Takes, Damma and Tuppa Version

We are visiting my parents this week. Otherwise known as “Damma and Tuppa” by Sis.

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 ^^Every day, “Where my Tuppa?,” she says.

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Here’s what we’re up to:

1. My Mom recently hosted a big Lego event at her library. As a result, she has a gazillion Legos these days. I have a love-hate relationship with Legos. I love them because I think they must be a great toy for imagination and stuff. I hate them because, well, they’re Legos.

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My girls have had a blast with my Mom’s Legos. Which is great, because I won’t need to get any since they can play with them here. Or maybe it’s not great, because now they know they like them, and they’ll ask for them at all the birthdays.

2. My Mom is teaching Miss to sew. This brings back many memories:

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Makes me think of my Grandma teaching me stuff. And when my Mom taught me to sew. Oh the nostalgia.

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3. Happiness is playing outside without heavy coats. Or snow pants. Or mittens (otherwise known as my nemesis).

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Put on jacket. Slip on shoes. Go outside. Freeeeedom!!!

And my kids like it too.

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4. Sis is obsessed with flying things. Birds, planes, “coppers” (helicopters).

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Which is quite fun, since my parents live near an Army base where they have lots of “coppers.” “Where copper gooo?” and “Copper slow dooown!” were her favorite phrases yesterday.

5. My girls went to story time at my Mom’s library where she gave them these obnoxiously loud lovely flute things.

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These will be a great toy to keep at Grandma and Grandpa’s. Forever.

6. About once a year, when we come to visit my parents, my husband and I leave the girls with my Mom and Dad,

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and go to Nashville for an overnight date.

I really enjoy going out to dinner at a nice restaurant, but we have date nights at home fairly frequently, so that’s not the best part.

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^^ Miss asked me for a picture of me and her Daddy on date night for a frame she is painting. Soooo, camera timer ^^

The best part of the overnight date?

Date breakfast.

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And date morning lounging:

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I slept in until 7:15 this morning and still got to linger over my coffee and reading. Pure luxury.

For more Quick takes click HERE!

Posted in 7 Quick Takes Friday, Family, Grandparents, My Mom, Outdoors | 2 Comments

How I Really Found God – My Messy Beautiful

I read this verse the other day:

“Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh.” Luke 6:21

It made me cry, and it made me smile (and by the way, check me out, quoting the Bible!!). The verse made me think about how I am blessed even in, or maybe especially in, the difficulties my family has experienced in the past year or so.

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It is sometimes difficult to think of my miscarriage or my husband’s vocal cord paralysis as blessings, but without those experiences, I may never have found my way to the peace of Christ. These were and are blessings.

I know that this is true because of another, longer-lasting experience that has challenged me, and my faith, every single day for over a year.

Naturally, I went through a period of mourning after my miscarriage. It still makes me sad to think about what might have been, but I feel at peace about it now. And although my husband’s vocal cord paralysis was difficult and scary, after about seven months, his cord recovered and now seems pretty much as good as new.

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But those two things are only part of the story. A very important part, yes, but just the beginning. After getting pregnant and losing that pregnancy last January, I have continued to try to get pregnant again. And I have not been able to. I thank God every day for the three precious children I have. But I still ache to have at least one more.

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Late last summer after about six months of trying, I began to realize that we might need a little help to be able to conceive again. I went to my doctor, and have since tried Clomid and then Letrozole. I have tried acupuncture. I have tried much larger doses of Letrozole and have given myself shots of some medicine in the stomach. I’ve had ultrasounds, blood tests, and tested my own pee for various hormones more times than any person should really ever have to.

The fertility specialist we finally consulted in February used the term “dwindling egg reserve” or “diminished egg quality” or something like that. She probably said both of those things. I just turned 38 after all. I guess the old eggs aren’t what they used to be.

Diagnosis? Unexplained secondary infertility.

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The months of trying and failing at something that once came so easily to me have at times led me to feel despair. The fact that I cannot control this part of my life that I just want to fix has made me feel crazy. But here’s the thing, the part that is beautiful in all this infertility mess:

Being unable to control my fertility, unable to find a solution, unable to have another baby that I want so desperately, has brought me to my knees.

I said my first prayer during a miscarriage. I began to pray regularly when my husband’s vocal cord became paralyzed. But infertility has helped me to really learn about prayer and depending on God and not being in control.

I wrote about it here. How I spent the first several months of praying about this searching for the right way to do it so that God would grant my request. I found out that Saint Gerard is most commonly viewed as the patron saint of infertility and that some people think Saint Rita and Saint Philomena are as well. I really felt drawn to Saint Rita, since she is also the patron saint of hopeless cases. So I asked daily for the intercession of Saints Gerard and Rita and Philomena. I prayed a Saint Gerard novena and one to Saint Rita. I learned about the Chaplet of Hannah’s Tears, a chaplet specifically for infertility. I did all these things trying to find the magic combination that would result in my prayers being answered.

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I thought I had found God. I was desperate and begged Him every day for another baby.

I couldn’t figure out why He wasn’t answering me. I didn’t understand what I was doing wrong. I was kind of a mess.

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And then the answer came. I understood. It wasn’t that God wasn’t listening or wasn’t responding. He was giving me an opportunity to learn about trust and faith and letting go of control. He was showing His love for me by teaching me humility and patience.

And with this realization, something beautiful came from the longing and fear and repeated disappointments. I found grace through suffering. I found the ability to pray for another baby while at the same time saying, “It’s okay if it’s not Your plan for me.” I began to pray for God to change my desires if they don’t match with what He wants for me. I ask Him now, every day, to help me to hear Him so I can know if He intends for my family to be complete as it is. To help me to do what He wants, even if it’s not what I want.

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And this letting go, this handing it over to God, has given me freedom beyond what I ever could have had without it. For the record, I haven’t lost any of my longing for a baby. I haven’t felt like God is telling me that I should give it up. So we keep trying.

Each time I get a negative result on a pregnancy test I still feel a brief sense of despair. The disappointment is still like a punch in the gut. But instead of wallowing in that place for any length of time, I pray. I shut off the noise in my own head, that voice that wails, “This is awful! I’ll never get pregnant! I’m so unhappy/frustrated/mad/demoralized!” and I just pray. “Okay. Not this time. Now what?”

I still have so much to learn. But one thing I know: There is beauty in difficult. There can be peace in painful. If I’m open to God I can feel it. Because it’s Him.

This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

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Posted in Religion | 8 Comments

For Fun (and to save me from having nothing to write about…)

Usually on Fridays I link up with Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes Friday. However, I don’t think I have seven things to write about today. In fact, I can barely think of one thing.

So, I was really happy to see a link up from Kendra at Catholic All Year today that I can totally do. Kendra was given a Liebster Award, which means she had to answer some questions and then tag some other bloggers to answer the questions she wanted to ask. I didn’t get tagged by her, but she kindly included an invite for any bloggers to answer and play along. So, I am off the hook for thinking of something to write today. Here goes:

1. Where do you live? And why do you live there?

Wisconsin. Because of my husband’s job. Also because we both love the Midwest.

2. What are you currently watching and/or reading?

I’m between books. I just finished Rome Sweet Home (again) and am unsure what I’m going to pick up next. It will either be

3. What kind of Catholic are you: cradle or convert (or considering)?

Convert. It will be official at the Easter Vigil (my conversion story part 1 and part 2).

4. Can you point to one moment or experience that made you a practicing Catholic (or want to be)?

As I mentioned in my second post about my conversion, there were lots of factors that led me to want to become Catholic, but probably the biggest was the experience or sitting in Mass and feeling a very strong urge to receive communion. That kind of started the whole Catholic ball rolling.

5. How many pairs of shoes do you own?

I have no idea. Too many. I have only a few pairs that I wear regularly now. Lots of my shoes are left over from my days of bar hopping in graduate school and shortly thereafter.

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^^ c. 2002 Check the cute shoes ^^

I’m sure I’ll probably never any of those shoes again, but I can’t bring myself to get rid of them for some reason.

6. Are you a good dancer?

No. I was just discussing this with my husband. I used to be a good dancer (back in the aforementioned bar-hopping/pre-children days).

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^^ 2008 Check the moves ^^

But somehow, I have totally lost my groove. Now I do the old lady side-step-shuffle-bounce dance.

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I don’t know how this happened.

7. Who usually drives, you or your husband?

Always my husband. Except when I’m the pregnant, automatic-nine-month designated driver.

8. What is your favorite holiday and how do you celebrate it?

This is a toughy. I love Christmas. I have always loved Christmas. For tradition and meaning and sentimentality, Christmas is my favorite.

But, for pure fun, by far my favorite is Labor Day. We celebrate it with a huge weekend-long party at my husband’s parents’ farm in Missouri. His whole extended family comes. The weekend culminates with a shrimp boil and then crazy dance party in which everyone dresses in themed costumes and my husband and his brother and cousins and a few others are the band.

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^^c. 2005 (?) It was a “Decades” theme. Guess which decade we picked.

I’ve been to a lot of parties in my time. This one consistently blows any other party out of the water. You can read all about it here (I apologize for the lack of photos in that post. When I switched hosting companies not all the photos got transferred. I’m working on it but it’s taking forever, and it’s too late for me to redo all the photos in that post tonight).

9. Which is correct, left or right?

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Left. Without a doubt. Left. Husband, take note.

10. Do you have any scars?

A few. Nothing too major. Most notably I have a small scar under my right eye where my brother accidentally hit me with a baseball bat. I think I was four or five. And I have a scar from my c-section when Miss was born.

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11. What’s the most famous thing you’ve ever done?

Nothing much. I’d like to say it’s the book I wrote shortly after completing my Ph.D., but since I think only about four people bought it, I’m going to have to say having one of my posts tweeted by Jennifer Fulwiler.

That’s it. If you want to answer these and link up, go HERE. And come back and let me know. Or just answer them in the comments (don’t be scared off by the Catholic questions if you’re not Catholic!). I’d love to read your answers.

Posted in Miscellany, Other Mom Blogs | 4 Comments

Preschool – X Marks the Spot and X-Ray

We finally covered letter X in our home preschool and co-op a few weeks ago. I hadn’t been looking forward to it, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to find nearly as much inspiration from Pinterest and other sources as I usually do when planning a lesson. And when I started looking for ideas, I found that, in fact there isn’t much out there about X. I pulled together some ideas I found and came up with a few of my own to teach our preschool co-op. Here’s what we did:

I started by reading Alphabet Mystery by Audrey Wood. This book introduces the concept that the letter X is not a frequently used letter, but can be used as a symbol for other things, like kisses (XOXO), as is the case at the end of the book.

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In the book, the other letters go searching for the little X when he runs away. So the next thing we did was to do a letter X search on our white board. I wrote a 4×4 grid of letters, half Xs and half other letters. I got the idea here. The kids took turns, and with each turn had to find an X and circle it, and find a non-X and “X” it out.

The kids really loved the book and the grid activity, and these were a great way to introduce the next part of the lesson. I explained to them that in addition to being a way to symbolize kisses, X is also used as a way to mark the location of something, as in “X marks the spot” on a treasure map.

I passed out “Xx marks the spot” coloring pages from this printable pack and told them it was their treasure map. I then gave each of the four kids a section of the room to search (to avoid fighting or having just a couple of kids getting all the booty) and told them to find the treasure hidden under the Xs. Earlier I had placed small squares of construction paper with Xs on them around the room and under each one was either a gold “doubloon” or a gem. After the kids found all of the loot, they glued them to  piece poster board in the shape of an X. Here’s Lass’s:

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After completing this we returned to our rug. Usually I take some time to have the kids come up with as many words as they can think of that start with our letter of the week. But this time, considering the paucity of X-words, I tried something different.

I talked to the kids about how very few words begin with X but lots of words end with the letter. I then held up a bag with several different objects of pictures of objects in it and had the kids take turns picking something out.

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With each item they had to name it and then tell us whether the item starts with X or ends with it.

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Then we moved into talking about X-rays and read the book Jessica’s X-Ray by Pat Zonta.

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We made these super easy and fun X-ray crafts:

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E-Z. Trace hand and part of arm on black construction paper with a white crayon. Give each child seven and a half Q-tips and a small cup of white glue. Have them dunk the Q-tips in the glue and place on paper to make basic finger, wrist, and forearm bones. They loved it.

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All the snack ideas I saw involved eating something that could be placed in the shape of an X, like strips of cheese, pretzel sticks, etc. I opted to stick with my emphasis on learning the sound of X by talking about words that end in X, so we ate Chex Mix. Big hit.

And that’s that. Though I wasn’t really looking forward to doing X, it ended up being the most fun co-op lesson I’ve taught. And the lesson was very easy.

In addition to the co-op day, we did other letter X activities just in our homeschool, like making these St. Francis Xavier dolls:

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They were inspired by the ones at Catholic Icing. We just used different materials that we happened to have available.

We also read lots of other books about X-rays and bones, like My Mom Has X-Ray Vision by Angela McAllister, Dem Bones by Bob Barner, What Does the X-Ray Say? by Second Grade Students at Longfellow Elementary School, and Curious George Goes to the Hospital by H.A. Rey.

Letter X wasn’t too bad. And now we only have two more letters of the alphabet to complete. We’re doing Y right now, and in a few weeks we will do K. Then we will be done.

I’m really excited about this because I’m ready to move on from focusing on a Letter-of-the-Week style of homeschooling (though for us it’s usually more than one week per letter). I have purchased some different curricula for Miss to start working on kindergarten stuff, and I’m eager to start something new. I really don’t care that it’s April and an odd time to change what we’re doing in our school.

I just bought Five in a Row Volume 1, and I’m really looking forward to starting it with the girls. I also have some kindergarten materials from Seton Home Study School for Miss and grabbed some new preschool books from Rod and Staff for Lass to start on. We will be adding other components when kindergarten starts for real in the fall, but I think these will be the perfect change of pace for us for the rest of the spring.

Posted in Homeschool | Leave a comment

Fishing in the Front Yard

The snow is finally melting here.

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We have several bodies of water in our front yard just perfect for fishing.

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Is it wrong that I get a chuckle (and lots of photos) out of watching her struggle to get up with so much clothing on?

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She did do it by herself. I’m building up her self-efficacy.

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Happy Monday. Happy (almost) spring.

Posted in Miscellany, Outdoors | Leave a comment

A Day Late for Two

Somebody turned two yesterday.

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Two.

We had a big day. A play date. Daddy home early for cake. Big sisters were excited for the birthday girl to open her presents.

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She picked “Ariel III” (“Ariel’s Beginning”) for her birthday movie and we had a pizza picnic.

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I can’t believe how big she is.

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I’m falling asleep siting up tonight, but my Mom was heckling me a little bit to post some birthday pics (okay, maybe she just mentioned it). So, here they are. It was a great day.

Two.

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“Finding Religion” – My Conversion Story Part 2

Quick recap from My Conversion Story, Part 1 from last week: Last January I had a miscarriage and said a prayer for the first time in a long time. Then in February one of my husband’s vocal cords became paralyzed, I said more prayers, it sucked. In March, we went to church, my husband bought me coffee as a reward, I believed in God but not in Jesus as His Son. In May I had a brief crisis with Catholicism and felt sad that I might not go to our church anymore, but then it was okay, and I realized I really liked the Catholic Church, but I still did not want to become Catholic. Got it? Good. Moving on.

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Shortly after I wrote my first post about why I like the Catholic Church, another blogger wrote her own post ridiculing me for it. This shocked and upset me and led me to think and think and think about my reasons for liking the Church (And to write another post about it). And then I got all fired up, because I realized that the other blogger seemed to be using my post and dissing on me as a way to indirectly criticize Catholicism. Which made me mad because that is my church! And then I liked Catholicism even more.

Around this time, I began to experience a need to read everything I could about Christianity and Catholicism. I read lots of stuff, so I won’t list it all here, but there were two books that truly challenged me and changed me.

The first was The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. A true story about a family that ran an anti-Nazi operation out of their home and store and hid Jewish people during WWII. I was truly amazed by the faith of the people in this story. I can’t really describe what this book was like for me. Reading it felt like someone had lifted a veil from my face or something. Seriously deep thoughts resulted from reading this.

The second book was Rome Sweet Home by Scott and Kimberly Hahn. Scott and Kimberly were evangelical Protestants (I think Presbyterian?). He was even a pastor. This book is the memoir of their conversions to Catholicism. It describes the process by which the Hahns learned about and overcame their previously held mistaken beliefs about the Church. You know the types of beliefs I mean, like how people think Catholics worship Mary, or how Catholicism is all about what the Pope says and not about what the Bible says. The book was also full of the emotion (good and bad) that comes with finding a home in the Church. Even when you never, ever, ever thought that’s where you would end up.

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Some time during the early summer, I began to experience Mass differently. I had begun to truly believe and I found that going to Mass left me with a feeling of peace and tranquility unlike anything I had ever really experienced before. I also began to struggle with not being able to receive communion. I felt something like an ache and a longing when everyone else went up to the front of church to do so, and I had to stay behind. I found this to be odd, and I spent quite a bit of time thinking about it to figure out what it was about.

I was shocked to find that, in my heart, I wanted to become Catholic. I wanted to be able to receive the Eucharist. I didn’t really understand the Catholic belief of transfiguration (that the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Christ through the priest’s consecration of them), but I knew that I wanted that bread and wine. Very much.

I scoffed at this desire for a while, feeling that I was being silly. But it didn’t go away. I really wanted to become Catholic. But I didn’t want to tell anyone.

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See, I grew up during the years of the televangelism scandals. I remember seeing and hearing about very theatrical displays of “finding religion” and thinking that these were weird and in some cases kind of fake. Even back when I still believed in God (I mean before I didn’t believe and then believed again), I found the dramatic displays of evangelical conversion and other experiences to be unsettling. I felt uncomfortable with these, and it seemed like people felt they had to put on a show to prove that they were “true Christians.”

Then after I became an atheist, I just found it all to be silly. I thought I had it all figured out and that those who believed in God were just naive and pollyannaish. I thought that I was being all “scientific” in my rejection of religion. I thought there was no “evidence” to support the existence of God. I thought I was so smart.

This is hard to write, because it makes me seem like a total jerk. And I was a jerk about this particular issue in many ways. I had spent so many years making light of others’ experiences of “finding religion” (seems I always used the air quotes in my mind) based in part on some bad TV from the 80s and in part on my own hoity-toity beliefs that I knew “the truth,” that I was hesitant to really embrace my own experience. I sure didn’t want to share it with anyone else, because I was afraid I would be ridiculed or that people would find my conversion to be insincere.

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I had to take some time to think about it to make sure it was the right decision for me.

At the time I first realized I wanted to become Catholic, I was slowly working through reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis with a friend. When I first started reading the book, I was so annoyed with some of Lewis’s assertions about why we must accept that there is a God. In many instances I thought, “Okay that’s nice, but that’s not evidence. You can’t expect me to believe this if you can’t back it up better than that.”

Having a background in scientific research, I am naturally skeptical and have a tendency to look for alternate explanations for everything. When I started researching Christianity, I think I was looking for some hard data. I wanted evidence for the existence of God and for the assertion that Jesus was His Son.

But then as I read more of Mere Christianity and many other books and blogs and continued on with my own experiences of prayer and going to church, I began to have my own very real encounter with God. I couldn’t quantify it. I couldn’t measure it or prove it to anyone else. I was the experimenter and the test subject. I was an N of one – a case study. I was using my own anecdotal evidence. It would be terrible research design, but it turned out to be perfectly sufficient for my own personal experiment.

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I actually did end up reading plenty of information about the existence of God. About Jesus and the Bible and the origins of the Church. I found that there actually is a lot of evidence out there to support Christian beliefs. But for me, the proof that I needed came from my own experience. I knew that God was real because I felt Him. I knew that Jesus was His Son because every Sunday I sat in the Church He built and felt Him too.

And finally, I knew that I wanted to become Catholic, without a doubt. Everything I learned about it felt right for me. I wanted to join the Catholic Church, because it was home.

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I finally told my husband I wanted to convert. I wondered if he would think it was weird that I wanted to join the Church, but of course he didn’t. Neither did Super Friend. Neither did my Mom, or anyone else I told. I realized that most people don’t have the same thoughts about religious conversion that I used to have. And for those that do, I decided I didn’t much care what they thought about my conversion. It was something I just felt I had to do. So I contacted the director of the RCIA program at our church and got signed up.

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Eight months later, my conversion isn’t quite complete of course. A lot has happened and I’ve learned a ton since July, when I decided to become Catholic. I won’t officially join the papists until the Easter Vigil Mass on April 19th. On that day I will become a bona fide convert. But since last summer, I have been a convert in my heart.

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This whole conversion process has humbled me in countless ways. It’s led me to take a hard look at myself in many areas. I haven’t always felt this way, but I now know that it doesn’t really matter why or how someone comes to a place of finding God. It will be different for everyone. For me the experience has been very painful. And also very beautiful. I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Posted in Religion | 6 Comments