My Faith Journey
“Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe” - Voltaire
Faith has been on my mind a lot lately and I felt like it was time for me to share my story. Today is the one-year anniversary of my father's passing. The day I lost my best friend and biggest fan. I've already had Carrie Underwood's 'See You Again' on repeat for the last 30 minutes. There are days that I still cannot face the reality my dad isn't really here. But like Carrie says - I will see him again and this is not where it ends.
In my career as a family therapist, I ask people A LOT of questions and I hear A LOT of stories. I ask people about their past; what happened in their lives, so I can get a better understanding of what got someone where they are today. From this, I have gained SO much insight into how much faith has an impact on us. There are usually two scenarios, how someone came to find their faith, or how someone turned away from it. This has resonated so much with me as I can recall the exact day I found my faith, and for the first time, I’m ready to share.
So here we go...
“I just wish she would know it’s okay to let go. I wish she could understand we love her and we will be okay. It’s time, I wish she would let go. She needs to let go.” These were the words I remember saying out loud, talking to no one and yet everyone at the same time. My mom was steadily deteriorating after a 10-year battle with what we now believe was early-onset Alzheimer's, a devastating terminal illness that impacts memory, bodily functions, and ultimately leads to death. This was after surviving breast cancer in her early forties. My mom was an amazing woman, yet she was sick most of my childhood. My hero of a father - a registered nurse by trade - was able to care for my mother in our home throughout her illnesses. While this was great in so many ways, it was also extremely draining and traumatic for a child to witness. I can honestly say I watched my mother wither away in front of me.
My mom was Jewish. My dad, Roman Catholic and Episcopalian. I was pretty lucky growing up, in that I got to experience both religions and all the correlating holidays. Except for Easter. My dad stomped on the reality of the Easter bunny when I was 5-years-old, leading me to spoil it for all the neighborhood kids, of course. We celebrated Hanukkah and Christmas (double the presents!) which I promise was not as exciting the older I got. I usually got necessities for Hanukkah and fun things for Christmas. I can remember attending my older sister’s Bat Mitzvah and chanting Hebrew songs at each gathering with my mom’s family.
Please excuse picture quality, we don't have many recent photos of my parents sadly.
That is, until my mom became ill about 3 years after recovering from breast cancer. Most of the traditional celebrations ceased as our matriarch gradually forget the words to each song. My dad and I kept some of them up for her sake, wanting to continue the tradition and bring her comfort when we could. With my sister away at college, states away, it was just the three of us. We moved from Illinois to the beach in North Carolina in hopes of enjoying our time together while we could. But I just never felt comfortable claiming a religion that I barely knew anything about.
It would be fair to say I was not very religious or spiritual growing up. My father embraced Judaism out of love for my mother, but had denounced his own faith early on in life. I never attended temple, as there wasn’t one in my town at the time. Never had a Bat Mitzvah of my own, and only attended a church service if I went with a friend after a sleepover. I think I began questioning my faith during high school. I always wondered what was out there.
And on a clear, warm October night in 2009, I found my God. I was 17-years-old, sitting on the beach with my then high school boyfriend. We told each other everything, you know how high school love is. The last few months had been rough in my home, with round the clock care for my mom increasing and deterioration progressing fairly rapidly. She had entered hospice for the second time, and this time, we didn’t think she was going to regain strength to hang on for much longer.
So under a moonlit sky on the sand - I called out. What happened the next day completely confirmed my faith in God.
I went home that night with a heavy heart and my eyes tired and sore from crying. I walked passed my dad asleep on the couch and said goodnight, glanced over at my mother’s bedroom where she lay asleep, and went on to bed, like always. I awoke to my dad knocking on my bedroom door around 7:00 a.m., just in time to get ready for school. He opened the door - and I just knew. My dad then told me my mom had passed around 4:00 a.m. He was by her side as she took her last breath. My dad was literally the most amazing man I have ever known.
I don’t remember every detail from that day - as it became a blur pretty quickly, but I do remember what I felt when I got the news. Utter shock. There was NO WAY God hadn’t heard me the night before. That would be too much of a coincidence. Someone or something had listened to the words in my heart and brought my mother, and me, peace. You ever have that feeling? I’ll never be able to fully explain it through words.
Fast-forward 8 years. In college I experimented with various church organizations in Raleigh. I found friends who also wanted to get more involved in their faith and attend services with. I became an active member of Hope Community Church here in Raleigh - an amazing organization that truly embraces God’s love - my senior year. In May 2017, I decided to make the commitment to follow and claim Jesus as my Savior by getting baptized, fully converting from Judaism to Christianity. My dad was in full support of my decision, stating how proud he was, and how proud my mother would be of me.
I’m an active member of Hope, working towards strengthening my faith in God everyday. Church has become a place where I feel raw emotion, peace, and happiness all at once, something I have never experienced anywhere else in my life! I promise I am not a trying to shove this message down your throat. I know my story is unique and I cannot speak for anyone but myself - everyone’s faith journey is different - but I know that day and the correlating events were no coincidence.
It would have been so easy for me to blame God for taking my mother and my father from me at such a young age, but I’ve never looked at it that way. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve aimed my fair share of blame at God throughout my life. Being an orphan at 25 isn't easy, but I always come back to having faith in him. I find comfort in the phrase, For we Live by Faith, not by Sight. Though sometimes, if we look hard enough, we can see the signs that God is with us and He hears us.
Now that I have written my story and cried my tears, I can’t tell you how good it feels to be able to share my faith journey with other people. I’d love to hear about your faith story or even how you’re struggling or have struggled with your faith! Message me on social media or comment below!
With all the love,