I was baptized as a baby in a Catholic church in San Antonio, Texas. My Dad grew up in a Catholic household and my Mom in a Methodist household, but her family also often went to Baptist churches. When we ended up back in Mom’s hometown of Eufaula, Alabama at the age of 5 we went to a Freewill Baptist church near the housing projects we lived in. I chose to get baptized again there. Also, the preacher’s son, Philip Nelson, a cute redheaded boy was my Kindergarten boyfriend.
While living in Eufaula, on one occasion, while at a non-denominational church with Mom and my siblings, I witnessed my Mom “speaking in tongues” which is why I always viewed it as a positive experience. Also, in Eufaula we began going to church at the First Assembly of God Church and I loved it because they offered a separate children’s church service geared towards children. Dad would come and go in our lives. It seems like when he was around Mom stayed home with him sometimes and my siblings and I took the church bus to go to church at First Assembly.
In the 2nd grade Dad got a job in Montgomery, Alabama so we moved there. While there we began going to an Assembly of God church there. I LOVED that church! The worship service was even livelier and lots of children would dance as we praised God. My Dad got me a Children’s Bible that year and I loved reading it.
We moved back to Eufaula in the 3rd grade and Dad was in and out of our life. While I was in the 3rd grade my Mom began attending RCIA classes at the Holy Redeemer Catholic Church. Eventually we began going as a family there.. well Mom and us. At first I thought that Mass was really boring. I enjoyed CCD though. I also liked that there were many church functions such as potlucks, and an annual pancake supper on Fat Tuesday. The more I learned about the Catholic faith the more meaningful the Catholic faith became to me. I felt so special when I made my First Communion in the 4th grade. My brother Moe made his the same year as me.
We moved to La Feria, Texas in the 7th grade and became part of a local parish there. There were much more Catholics in this predominately Hispanic region. CCD was one day during the week instead of it being before Mass. There weren’t many church socials also. Mom didn’t make friends there like she did in Eufaula. I know the purpose is to give thanks but church can also be a social outlet for people.
I’m gonna get off topic for a moment but that year in La Feria was rough. It was the worst year in my life. People would tease my siblings and me for our Southern drawl and call us hillbillies. Our Uncle Longoria gave us a Rottweiler pup that ended up getting stolen. Near the end of the school year a girl that was a known bully suckerpunched me over a guy we both liked. And to make matters worse on the night I was gonna spend the night with a new friend she ditched me and her boyfriend raped me. My parents pressed charges fortunately. They thought we should move but we children didn’t want to.
Later that summer, when I went to Grace Brethren Church in Pharr, with a friend on a church van that went around to pick teens up, I was beat up after the worship service during our free time. The friend that ditched me at her boyfriend’s went too. She started pushing me while accusing me of being a horny bitch and lying about her boyfriend. One of her friends slammed me on the ground so hard I blacked out for a moment. When I came back to my senses I ran into the church lobby and the girl that had slammed me down came swinging punches at me. Finally someone got an adult to stop all this. I got the lady to drop me off at a friend’s since I didn’t want Mom to see me with a black eye but she found out where I was and got teary eyed when she saw me. It was then that I agreed we should move and we ended up moving to Pharr.
We pressed charges on the three girls too and Dad filed a lawsuit against the church and won.
We only went to church as a family a few times in Pharr at a nearby Catholic Church called St. Jude’s. Mom asked if I wanted to enroll in CCD and although I said yes I never went after all. I’m not sure but I guess no one cared about going to church anymore since we rarely went in my teen years. While living in Texas my Dad, brother two years younger than me, and sister got into Native American dancing and the man that organized it was a pastor at the Grace Brethren Church in McAllen. Sometimes we went to his church. My Dad lacks common sense and on one occasion told him we were suing the church in Pharr which was also a Grace Brethren church and one time the pastor at the McAllen church mentioned to the congregation that the Pharr church was being sued and prayed for that church. I was so embarrassed and Dad didn’t realize they were talking about us!
Near the middle of my 8th grade school year I began going to a youth group at the First Baptist Church in Pharr cause a good friend of mine went in addition to a guy I liked then. I’d go off and on in the 8th and 9th grade. But, I still believed the Catholic church was probably closest to Jesus original church since it’s the oldest organized Christian church.
When I spent the summer of ’95 in Brazil with my new sister (an exchange student that stayed in my home my Freshman year) and family (her family) we’d often go to Mass and I loved it ’cause the church we went to had a lively Mass (I mean the music).
Oh yeah, I believe I’ve felt the Holy Spirit’s presence twice in my life, the time I went to the Abundant Grace Community Church and the time I went with Dad to one of his Hindu friends house to chant in Sanskrit. My Dad’s always said that religions are like spokes of a wheel leading to the same place and I think that makes sense.
In my teen years I didn’t make my Confirmation cause I thought I wasn’t worthy. I got into drinking a lot when I graduated from high school and also began dating a guy that had no job nor ambition but loved to party and I was happy with that back then. His mother was a devout Jehovah’s Witness. She didn’t like me cause she caught us in his room early in our relationship. All I knew about Jehovah’s Witnesses is that they didn’t celebrate holidays and birthdays. My best friend used to be a JW.
Despite the fact Jason had an interest in Satanism, some of the JW beliefs he was raised with stayed with him. Three years into the relationship his mom started passing The Watchtower and Awake magazines on to me and I began reading them. I didn’t feel convinced this was the right path and also thought they were very anti-Catholic, anti-everyone else. They kept referring to themselves as true Christians. I went to a family Bible study once or twice and to the Kingdom Hall two or three times. Jason and I argued when I told him it wasn’t for me. He accused me of not giving it a chance. For awhile I did some church hopping and ended up enrolling in an RCIA course to make my Confirmation but I quit going.
When I was in my mid-twenties I went on the Mormon website to have a Book of Mormon delivered to me. I had fond memories of sweet innocent Mormon friends I’d had in life and had even been to a Valentine’s dance at a Mormon church my Senior year. Plus, even though it says in the book of Revelations that no man should add to the Bible, I was curious what the Book of Mormon taught. I’ve yet to read it but still have a copy.
At this time in my life I had little to no social interaction aside from being online, the missionaries that came to teach me Mormonism, and my family. Some sisters came before my grandma passed away and they went away and a year later some different sisters came. I had a really hard time believing what I was taught such as the fact that Joseph Smith found these gold plates and that some of the Jews escaped Babylonian captivity and crossed over to the Americas. I thought that it was a racist teaching that the people became wicked and that’s why the American Indians had none of these beliefs when Europeans came later. Also, there’s no evidence of these ancient societies that supposedly lived here. I tried to have faith but it created even bigger doubt. I began to see why Jewish people don’t believe in Jesus because the teachings of the Bible seem far-fetched and I could see why people would be atheist. I thought the Mormon worship service was boring but figured I’d probably grow to love it the way I did the Catholic Mass. Oh yeah, I also had a Mormon baptism. The last time I went to church there was when they announced that people needed to make an appointment to discuss their tithes with the bishop.
Religions have always interested me and I’ve been to a Jewish Sabbath a few times but have told myself I wouldn’t want to deny Christ. I’ve been curious about their teachings and buying a Torah to see if it differs from our Old Testament though.
Back in 2006 I was also deeply curious about sanguinarian vampirism. On one occasion I met with a local vampire cult leader but was turned off ’cause he just talked about orgies. He practiced Luciferianism.
While in rehab in 2011 I came to believe in a power greater than myself (the second step of the twelve step program) and that power was the Norse goddess Freya. I love Jesus but wanted a female goddess for my Higher Power to get me through this. I also chose her ’cause she’s a fertility goddess and I want children someday and I liked the name.
The need for a positive social outlet stayed with me since I relapsed after rehab which led me to returning to St. Joseph catholic Church in Edinburg. That’s how I learned about the Valley Awakening retreat I went on which was the first retreat I’d ever been on. In the past few years I went on my first Awakening retreat and during that experience I vowed not to turn my back on Jesus again. There was a time when I found blasphemy to be humorous. I can’t help it I still think obscene jokes can be funny as long as they’re not blasphemous too.
I went with a good friend that was staff on the retreat to a CLAY (Christ Loves All of You) Bible Study the following week but after that I fell back into old habits. When I went to the Diocesan Annual Young Adult Posada I saw an ad for another retreat, the Ambassadors For Christ retreat, which was another fun uplifting experience for me, and got me thinking I ought to go back to church. It turned out the RCIA Director remembered me and said I could join the class and make my Confirmation that year or the following. It was all up to me.
I almost backed out due to doubt but I wound up going for it and am ever grateful for this gift. But I feel bad in a way because I don’t believe that Confession is really necessary and Mass feels repetitive. I like hearing the Scripture readings and the preacher’s homilies. It is uplifting but it feels like something’s still missing.
I recently saw a sign outside a Methodist church that read “Faith is not a guilt trip.” That stuck with me. I still vow never to turn my back on Jesus. I know this is Lent and I originally thought I should give myself a year or more before exploring other spiritual paths but I think the time is now. It is said in the Bible that where two or more gather in my name there I’ll be so I think I can find God in any church of my choosing. I feel more uplifted at churches with a contemporary praise band and I believe God wants us to give thanks and praise while also having a good time doing it.
However, I’m also curious about Hinduism cause I used to have a book and I read that as a Hindu you can pray to Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, etc. Its like my Dad used to say about spokes on a wheel leading to the same path. Fortunately, there’s a Hindu temple in Edinburg and I intend to go inquire so I can learn more.