It is amazing the way that God uses the ordinary things and people in our lives to reach out to us.
I grew up in an unchurched home. My mother was raised Catholic but did not attend Church due to a prior marriage and not being able to partake of the Eucharist. My father had no religious affiliation. .
I am the oldest of four children. Our only exposure to church was through our grandmother who was a devout and practicing Catholic. She made sure that all of us siblings were at least baptized Catholic. And she would on the rare occasion take us to Mass.
When I was 9 or 10 years old, I have a very distinct memory of attending Mass one time with my grandmother and my cousin. My cousin was a practicing Catholic. I watched as she knelt and prayed. Like most kids. I wanted to fit in, so I did what she did (at least what she was doing physically). It was while we were both kneeling that someone came up and asked us to bring forward the gifts at the preparation of gifts.
Being just a kid, I wanted to do it because my cousin was doing it. So, I said yes. My grandmother was so surprised when she witnessed the event. Afterward, it was all she could talk about, she was so proud. What I remember most about the experience was being petrified that I was going to be “exposed” as a fake.
I grew into adulthood mostly an unchurched soul. I fell in love and I married. My (late) husband was Baptist by upbringing, but he did not attend church or practice his faith as an adult. No religious affiliation and no regular church attendance were solidified as the status quo for my life. Over the years, I would attend a church service on occasion when my well-meaning friends, worried about my soul, would invite me to their church. One time I even made a truly heartfelt altar call. But the moment was short-lived
During most of my young adult life I considered myself a spiritual person, but not a religiously affiliated person. I had a deep fascination with reincarnation and the entire New Age Movement. I even attended a few workshops and retreats on metaphysics. I took classes when I could find something relevant. It was during an adult education class on “Meditation” offered by our local school district that I took the first steps on my journey toward conversion.
I don't remember all of the details about the actual class. I just remember that once a week for four weeks we studied different types of meditation techniques. Our homework was to spend time meditating using one of the techniques. I did my homework just as I was told.
I wasn't prepared for what was going to happen next.
While doing a visualization technique, I entered into a very deep state of relaxation and awareness. In my visualization I was in a dark cave, lying in a pool of water that left my face exposed above the water. Every aspect of my surroundings seemed alive and surreal. Then it happened. A voice spoke. I knew it was God. Some things you just know. I could not see Him, but I felt Him. He spoke loud, very loud. He said, “my child you need to go to church.” I was taken aback but I had enough wits about me to ask “What Church?” He only repeated what he said before. I came out of the experience shaken from the sheer force of His presence.
Needless to say, I dropped all the New Age garbage. I spent quite a bit of time looking for a church home. But none of the ones I found on my own ever felt like they were right. I begged for God to show me. I begged for Him to talk to me again and tell me “Which church?” I looked in the Bible trying to find clues. Every church said they were the right one. Yet, when I would be at one they would bad-mouth the other. Somehow it always felt wrong.
Life continued on as normal. Then one day a co-worker said to me out of the blue, “My church is getting ready to start RCIA, would you like to go and find out about it?” Astonishingly, I heard myself answer “yes.” At RCIA, it finally felt right! That co-worker eventually became my Sponsor and we attended the same Church for a number of years. Some years later we would both reminisce on how astounding it was that the entire conversation actually took place, for it truly was the Holy Spirit at work.
I can't say the rest is history. If you have read any of my other posts you know I am the first one to admit to being a stubborn person. I didn't step into this journey of new found faith without putting up a fight. There is more to my story of conversion. You will have to come back for part two.
For this part of the story, I am thankful that God used my fascination with the metaphysics to reach out to me one night and to connect with the very depths of my soul. I am eternally grateful He used my co-worker to guide me toward the Catholic Church.
God is a serious user of persons and things!
I for one, am glad He is.
by Cyndi Marlow
How has God used others to reach you?
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. ~ 2 Corinthians 2:14
In my last post, “A Beautiful Tapestry of Inadequacies”, I shared a great deal of my current family struggles and my very deep rooted self-doubts as a parent. Although it was healing to put the words to paper, it has also been a catalyst which calls me to deeper reflection as I ponder what my next moves will be with my son.
I have not felt an urge to write since that post. What I have been doing is spending a lot of time thinking back to the days when my son was younger. There was a period when he was much younger that I dabbled in writing. There were no blogs back then. At least none that I remember. My avenue of choice to see my reflections in print was our local diocesan newspaper, “The Record.” During this time they had a supplemental spirituality section to their newspaper which encouraged anyone to submit contributions. I remembered having two articles published. One was a reflection called “Known by the Scars. The other was about my son and an art project he did at pre-school. It was titled “Soda Pop and Light Bulbs” This was the one I wanted to find. That was the one I had convinced myself I needed to find.
Now, you have to remember this was the days of floppy disks and really slow computers. I no longer have either the computer or the floppy that the articles were saved. I kept a hard copy of the newspaper. I know that I have saved them...somewhere. And this past week, I have searched and searched and cannot find either of them.
I needed to read that story again. I needed to be taken back to a time when our relationship was positive and encouraging. And, I wanted to share that story with you. It was a reflection about a simple art project my son had brought home. I still remember how moved I was by what he had done and what he had said when I asked him to tell me more about the picture. I still remember the premise behind the reflection. But I do not remember enough to re-create it for this blog.
So I searched.
I found so many of the remnants of our past lives. Just today I looked in some new places. In one drawer I found a 1998 calendar filled with a year of appointments and events of our former lives as a family. Doctor appointments. Birthday parties. All those glorious ordinary things that make up and fill the days of our lives.
I found birthday cards galore from most of my son's younger birthdays. Artwork with some “bubblehead” people my son had drawn. A copy of the contract from the grave site where my husband was buried. Reminder after reminder of our families past. But no article and piece of artwork with the “Soda Pop and Light Bulbs” that I was so certain I had saved. My frustrations were growing and the tears were starting to well-up in my eyes.
But suddenly I spotted what looked to be a yellowed copy of folded newspaper. It looked like it could be from the publication I was looking for. It was! It was from “The Record.” " This is one of them" I said to myself. Fingers crossed! I pray it's the one I wanted.
It was neither one.
Because apparently, I had a third article published that I had completely forgotten about. And as I read it the tears didn't just well up, they poured out.
God placed that article in my hands today. For He knew that I so desperately need to be reminded how much my son has inspired me and still inspires me.
No matter what happens next.
by Cyndi Marlow
*The "Remember Me" article appeared in “Sacred Rhythms” a spirituality supplement to "The Record" Newspaper on March 7, 2002.
This past year had been a challenge both professionally and personally. For reasons not all clear to me, feelings of inadequacies set in and clouded my year. I was troubled by the challenges that I felt were being propelled at me in seeking to live and understand my faith.
This past year brought us a Pope, who if nothing else, challenges us by word and example how to live a joyful and humble Christian life. Due in a great part to his words, I have begun to question what I am called to do and how I am meant to live. Time and again, I hear something our Pope has said (or done) that resonates deeply with my soul. I have been filled with a much deeper awareness of those who suffer only to find myself caught in the abyss of my doubts and fears, trying to determine how it is that I am called to action. My insecurities and feelings of inadequacies abound.
The past 8-10 years have been difficult for my family which, after many deep losses, is basically now just me and my son. My parents are both gone. My husbands parents gone for many years now. My husband of 24 years died eight years ago of a massive heart attack at 48. The hardest part of that has been watching helplessly to what this has done to our son who was two days from turning 11 when his father died. It was my son and I who found him the night he died. We were returning home from a night of religious education classes.
I have given countless hours and most of my finances in trying to get our son help to deal with the aftermath of this trauma. But to no avail. He is bitter, angry, and filled with resentment. He has lost all respect for Christianity and especially the Catholic faith (in his mind, he assumes if we had not been at classes, things might be different). He pretty much has lost all respect for himself as well. Those who know me well, know the extents that I have gone to try to reach him and to try and get him help. But as I learned with our medical system about three years ago, at the age of 16, he has to agree to the help. Nothing I can say or do can force him into treatment he does not want (Unless he is deemed a harm to himself or others is what the law states) And although everything he chooses to do is destructive to himself spiritually, mentally and even physically it is not legally harmful enough. Because these issues are his personal life and I wish to respect that, I will not elaborate anymore other than to say that. watching his self-destructive behavior has taken its toll on me. I am almost out of options, other than prayer. At almost 19 years old now, it is a journey that I fear he must walk on his own. .
So I move forward in this new year, feeling called to do more with sharing my faith, only to acknowledge I have failed miserably in that task with my own child. For nothing I say or do seems to matter nor seems to have a bearing on his life choices anymore. I am faced with letting go. Not an easy task for a parent. The years of therapy, the doctor bills, the other trouble and consequences he has faced are now part of the fabric of a tattered past. I just pray that the remnants and threads I have provided him over the years will hold together until he seeks to restore the tapestry of his own life. Don't worry, there are lots of prayers still happening on this end.
So it is with my 'new year revolution' that I move to embrace my inadequacies and weave them into the patchwork of a new future. A tapestry which is layered with the rich and vibrant colors of uncertainty, carefully and beautifully stitched in the design of insecurities and delicately woven and held together with a faith that binds all things.
by Cyndi Marlow
Evangelizing the digital continent!
We each may be only one person, but together we are
all part of one body.
What is Embedded Faith? Simply put, this is a "gralog" (graphics + blog) providing images and thoughts to evangelize the digital continent.
Click to find out more.
How do I download
To download any image, just right click and choose "file save as".
Can I use your image on my website or publication?
Yes! All images are creative commons and are free to use. Credit or a link to this site is appreciated.
Images may not be sold.