Almost 4 years ago, a friend, Shawna (who happens to be a pastor's wife), decided that she wanted to get a group of women together for a bible study (briefly mentioned here). I, having no children and a husband living 2 1/2 hours away, was loving the idea of having company every week and offered to host so long as we shared the cooking duties. A few weeks later, we, a Pentecostal Pastor's Wife, a Presbyterian, a lukewarm Catholic (me), and a Christian (nondenominational) sat down with our bibles, 'Battlefield of the Mind' by Joyce Meyer, and cups of hot tea. It seemed that each chapter spoke to us in unique, yet similar ways and when one of us didn't have much to add, another filled the silence with her story.
As we made our way through the book and the bible, occasional discussions about the differences in our faiths came up, and I remember commenting that I'd never experienced Catholic's on fire for God like Shawna was (and still is). I remember learning more about different types of Christianity, and I remember being so intrigued by the differences and similarities.
I also remember asking Shawna to explain to me what 'grace' was. Saying that I just didn't understand it; didn't 'get it;' and truly, I didn't. It was this foreign concept to me that I had never truly experienced before. The best explanation I'd had was when I once asked my mom what she prayed for after communion. Her answer: grace. "What's grace?" I asked. "A gift from God." she replied. And that was all I knew of grace.
Looking back, during this time when The Man had already moved back to Morgantown, I was surrounded by God's grace. It was in this group of women; it was in the fact that I hadn't cracked up at the prospect of packing a 3 bedroom house on my own; it was present as I face the death of our sweet Pumpkin without The Man; it was there as the implications of the 'what if our house doesn't sell?' never really set in to my worried mind; it was all over my life.
But mostly it was in those evenings where I learned about faith and God and Jesus in a way I had never ever learned it before. Shawna had no way of knowing what she was doing with that bible study, only that God had put it on her heart to do it. But the fact that I sit here today, not a lukewarm cafeteria Catholic, but a faithful, fully-practicing Catholic ties back to those evenings sitting in my living room talking about God and Jesus and faith. The fact that I now understand and hunger for God's grace in ways I could never have imagined just 4 short years ago ties back to those evenings around my kitchen table eating dessert and talking about religion.
Shawna, I've sent you this link. I hope you've read here, because to openly and publicly say thank-you is the only way I can think to do it that will even come close to expressing the gratitude I have for the hours you spent answering and explaining. No, our beliefs are not exactly the same and no, I didn't become a pentecostal Christian, but I did fall in love with Jesus and I did learn how to lean on Him when this life becomes difficult to bear, and for that I have you to thank. You struck the first match and lit the fire. I am forever grateful.