Grace House

I grew up Catholic.  My Mom, who was fifth eldest of twelve children in a strict Roman Catholic family,  had planned to become a nun but just before she took her final vows, she left the convent in Jersey to go back home to Los Angeles for one last visit with family and friends.  It was then that she met my Dad, fell in love and decided to take a job instead of joining the nunnery.   She got pregnant with me at the age of 20 and married my Dad.  A few years later my Dad was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.  Life became difficult for my parents but my Mom made sure I went to Catholic school from K-4 and I was always happiest when I was in Church.  The structured services, smell of incense and familiar prayers offered a sense of security in an otherwise tumultuous home life.  I found peace there and remember wanting nothing more than to make God happy with me.  Some people struggle with faith, but from my earliest memories I have always just believed God is the Father, creator of the universe,  Jesus is God the Son, Messiah sent to redeem our broken world and the Holy Spirit is God, the Comforter sent to empower us, fill us, convict us and guide us.   My husband, the skeptic, tells me my Faith is a gift and he’s right.  It was this gift that carried me through domestic violence, multiple moves and my parents’ ultimate divorce that left my Mom, brother, sister and me living in the attic of my great aunt’s retirement home when I was only 12.  My mom and dad both remarried other people within a year or two and we became the real life Brady Bunch, inheriting a Stepfather and four step brothers and sisters for a new family of nine.  Those were hard years too and through it all my faith carried me.  We started going to church again and my Mom taught Catechism, but then my parents decided to look for a new church and we soon left my Catholic solace behind.  I remember being so angry and my mom calmly telling me that if I wanted to understand why we were leaving the Catholic church I would need to read my Bible.  I was so mad I read the Bible through from cover to cover that year just to spite her- and it changed my life.  I came to understand so much more about God and faith and life.  I became zealous about the new life I’d found and hopeful that God would take me places I’d never dreamed.  I prayed fervently every night for 3 things 1) a successful career, 2) a good Christian husband and 3) that God would use me for his glory.  When it came time to graduate high school, I prayed that I could go to Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, but it was a long-shot since my parents could not afford the airfare for me to attend that school, never-mind the tuition.  I asked God if it was His will for me to go to Pepperdine that He would provide the finances.  I ended up getting a full financial aid package to Pepperdine University, including tuition, books and room and board.  It was God’s incredible grace to me.   I lived on campus with an ocean view, studied abroad in Florence, Italy the Summer after my Sophomore year and graduated with a degree in Telecommunications.  I often marveled at how my life had taken such an amazing turn, especially given the students of privilege I was surrounded by.  I’d think “I don’t belong here.  How could God bless me like this? “.   He truly took me and set my “hind’s feet on high places” just as the psalmist said.  But that was only the beginning.  I would go on to marry a Pastor and become a step-mom, putting my blended family experiences to good use.  I would embark on a career in advertising that would bring more success than I’d ever imagined as that little girl living in the attic of that retirement home.  And I would become a mom, something I never thought I wanted but the very thing that turned out to be the most precious gift- establishing a life-long relationship with another human being.   In all of this I still pray that God will use me for his glory.