I was raised in suburban southern California. We attended the Episcopal church because it had the best private school. I learned liturgical Protestant Christianity, and was taught that Catholicism was bad because, among other heresies, they worshiped Mary. I saw God as a permissive parent: just visit occasionally, pay lip service to loving and honoring him, and do what you want. It was important to FEEL good about God. I was involved with my church’s youth programs, but the impression I received at home was that faith is secondary to college preparation. Regardless, I developed a love for liturgy and later on I would crave it.
By high school, church became a solace from chaotic family life; however, so did the allures of worldly pleasures, parties, and popularity. My late teens and early twenties were marked by romantic misadventures, parties, and re-devoting myself to church and volunteerism—sometimes all in the same weekend! Yet I was drawn to the services; I knew that was where I was supposed to be.
While starting my post-college career, living alone, and working full time, my world was turned upside down when a loved one attempted suicide. I discovered her barely alive, in a room that felt simultaneously demonic and angelic. The experience haunted me. I felt isolated and numbed my pain with passions, but occasionally attended a nearby Episcopal church. That year, my life spiraled to rock-bottom. I needed God, and guidance on how to turn my life around. I met with the Episcopal priest, and he was uncomfortable answering my questions. I left knowing I wouldn’t grow closer to God there.
I began contacting different Evangelical friends and soon got involved at a non-denominational megachurch. My eyes were opened to living by Biblical principles and sharing the practice of the apostles. However, it bothered me that the leadership spent energy every so often on how to keep worship “fresh” and which part of the Bible to study next. I longed for the liturgy and the lectionary.
After about a year, God “called” me to move in with my mother, 45 minutes away. I still attended my church, but couldn’t see my Evangelical friends regularly. One night at a party I overheard someone talking about Christ’s work on the cross and the church as a hospital. I was intrigued and found out he was inquiring into Orthodoxy. I asked him about the worship. He got uncomfortable saying “liturgical” and was surprised when I responded enthusiastically.
I joined him for a Divine Liturgy at a parish where the entrance was along the north wall. I stayed near the door and couldn’t see directly into the altar. I loved being back in a liturgical church and started learning about Orthodoxy.
I came back for a women’s fellowship and, now able to see inside the altar, I was horrified to see the Platytera! The centrality of the Theotokos was difficult for me. So I decided to bargain with Mary: I prayed to her that if she really did have favor with her Son, she could she free me of one particular long standing passion. For two weeks, I had no inclination toward that passion.
Soon after, I found a closer parish, met with the priest, and began catechumen classes. On Pascha 2009 I was received into Orthodoxy. My life has changed much—I am now an Oregonian home-schooling mother of four celebrating ten years of marriage this spring— but also my faith has grown. My conversion was just the beginning of my journey. Glory to God for His faithfulness!