Lost and Found: My Not So Uncommon Testimony

Mandie Kelly's picture

I was born and raised Catholic. I was baptized as a baby, did my first communion, reconciliation and in 8th grade I was confirmed. I went to mass EVERY Sunday with my family. EVEN on Vacation! I used to have check off parts in my head. That meant mass was over in 20 min, 10 min, WOO HOO, 5min after communion. I never felt much nor understood it. Once in a while, a good song after mass would stir a little something inside me but by the time we piled into the car it was usually gone.

My teenage years started out VERY rough. I went to Camerado Middle School, so half my friends went to Ponderosa High with me and the other half were shipped off to Oakridge. To make matters worse my best friend in the world, was going to be home-schooled. I felt so abandoned. I started trying to find my place. I ended up experimenting in a lot of things from sex to drugs, starving myself to be thin like my friends, trying to find where I fit. My self-esteem and self- worth were so low. All of this left me so empty and alone, that at the age of 15, I tried to kill myself. I had this huge HOLE, that I was always trying to fill. Little did I know, it was God. My sophomore year in high school, I met my husband. I fell so far in love thinking the “HOLE” would finally be filled. Nope! We ended up becoming totally obsessed with each other and nothing else mattered. I stopped being a good sister, daughter and friend.

Through all of this I had always been a straight A student. Before Josh, I was on track to go to Cal Poly. All of my future plans went out the window, because I didn’t want a long distance relationship. A few months after I turned 18, I was married. To make matters crazier, 2 weeks before my wedding I found out that I was pregnant. Not only was I totally not ready to be a wife, I was now going to be a mom. My husband wasn’t Catholic, YET. I wasn’t that motivated to go to church. It was FINALLY my choice, so I didn’t go. It was soo boring! Josh was non-denominational and the Catholic Church was too structured for him. Not having a real love or understanding for the Church we hopped around to a couple Christian Churches.

The years went on and we lived ONLY for ourselves. We got so lost and the HOLE inside was SO SO big. There was a time when I even filed for divorce, because we didn’t protect the sacredness of our marriage and it got real messy. We had 3 children, BUT, divorce was ok, because I wasn’t happy, and you only live once. One day my sister was over for dinner and was talking about Lent. I thought, oh great another thing I didn’t do. Then I thought, ok I’ll give up cussing and try to make it to mass on Sunday’s. I thought, yeah right. At the time, I’d been cussing like a sailor. But soon, I was actually becoming aware of the words that were coming out of my mouth and we had made it to a few masses. Then, I started to realize I wasn’t building my children’s foundation of faith. I was completely drowning… I was so into US weekly and what celebrities and everyone was doing. I was obsessed with my body and working out and starving myself. I was getting drunk and smoking all the time. I took sleeping pills, pain pills and anti-anxiety pills. I was so lost and didn’t even know it. The hole seemed so big and I couldn’t figure out how to fill it. I started to feel a tug pulling me back to the church. I went on a retreat. I remember hearing God tell me, “Enough, Enough, Enough” I’ll never forget, feeling and seeing God’s true love for me that weekend. The HOLE was actually getting filled! I had peace, calm, no anxiety and I slept through the night without pills. My first thought was, how do I keep this?! I remember God saying, Stay close to my teachings.

I started going to Church and not focusing on the things I disliked but truly looking for God. Soon after, Josh and I got married in the church and started to put God at the head of our marriage. I even went to Monsignor and asked about Confession. I said, what do u want me to confess? He said, when was your last confession? I said, Like 8th grade I think. He said, anything from then to now. I said, how much time do u have? I walked into confession with a 2 page front and back list. After that confession, I was no longer held captive by my sins or my past. God had set me free! And I’ll never look back. I was so focused on keeping my peace. I was careful of the things that I was putting into my mind, what I listened to, watched on TV, what friends I hung out with. My life started to drastically change. My relationships drastically changed. My priorities drastically changed. It was so amazing!

Even my bad habits like smoking. I remember telling God almost like a test. Alright God, if you don’t want me to smoke, then take the urge. I had been smoking since junior high off and on, sometimes even a pack a day when I drank. I was able to quit cold turkey that day and have never smoked even a puff to this day! It’s been over 4 years! I knew the Catholic Church was my home. My husband after seeing how God was transforming me, was also lead to the church and became Catholic! I now had a new problem. I was Catholic my whole life but I didn’t know much about it. Even now I am constantly learning and finding out more about the church. It’s not some story long ago that was passed down in a far away land. The places are real! The people are real! Christ our savior is real! The more I learn, the more alive it all becomes. The more I understand. The more it speaks to my heart.

There was a long time, when I wouldn’t even admit that I was Catholic. I would say, I was raised Catholic. Now I’m proud and excited to be Catholic. As Catholics, God gives us his sacraments to help bring us close to him. We can touch him, taste him, feel him. God who is invisible makes himself visible to us through his church and sacraments.
And the more I learn and the closer I get to God, the rest of my life falls into place. I no longer drive around with God in the passenger seat. I’ve surrendered and allow him to lead me. And at the end of the day, I’m not wondering anymore how to fill this God shaped HOLE. HE fills it for me!

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